Serhou Guirassy enjoyed a sensational 2023/24 Bundesliga campaign, scoring 28 goals in 28 games. - © DFL Deutsche Fußball Liga/ KIRILL KUDRYAVTSEV/AFP via Getty Images
Serhou Guirassy enjoyed a sensational 2023/24 Bundesliga campaign, scoring 28 goals in 28 games. - © DFL Deutsche Fußball Liga/ KIRILL KUDRYAVTSEV/AFP via Getty Images

Tactics Corner: What makes Serhou Guirassy and VfB Stuttgart so effective?


Serhou Guirassy's brace against Gladbach on the final day of the 2023/24 season brought him to a stonking 28 goals in 28 appearances during the campaign, leaving many asking where such an explosion in form came from…

For a while it looked like Guirassy's staggering start to the season would remain his main contribution - with injury and the African Cup of Nations thinning out his goals record in the middle of the season. His brace in Wolfsburg on Bundesliga Matchday 24 was the VfB Stuttgart striker’s first multi-goal showing since his hat-trick against the same opposition on 7 October 2023 

Guirassy finished a fine team move for the game’s opener, before adding another to stir memories of his record 13 strikes across the opening seven fixtures of the season. Those goals catapulted Stuttgart into the top-four equation, just months after they had survived a relegation play-off tie with Bundesliga 2’s Hamburg. How quickly things can change in football…

Watch: Guirassy netted twice in the win over Wolfsburg

Faith in Guirassy & a superb supporting cast

Sixteen minutes into the Bundesliga Matchday 8 meeting with Union Berlin, Guirassy put away his 14th goal of the season. However, late in the game, disaster struck in the form of a hamstring injury. The Guinean then had to contend with two more physical setbacks, while he also played at the Africa Cup of Nations

In nine games between his initial injury and the Wolfsburg brace, he had only scored four times – and two of those efforts were penalties – but he soon rediscovered his mojo.

So much so that he finished behind only 36-goal Harry Kane in the 2023/24 scoring chart, ending up on 28 as VfB finished as runners-up behind champions Bayer Leverkusen. Both Kane and Guirassy averaged a goal every 79 minutes in the recently ended campaign. 

Indeed, had it not been for Deniz Undav’s excellent performances in front of goal, Stuttgart may well have been far worse off during Guirassy’s mid-season absence. The Brighton and Hove Albion loanee scored his third goal of the season in the Union win, before going on an 11-goal spree between Matchdays 9 and 21.

Guirassy and Undav - Stuttgart's deadly duo

Better yet, Undav and Guirassy have proven a handy double act on a number of occasions, most notably in league and DFB Cup wins over Borussia Dortmund, as well as the 1-1 draw with unbeaten Bundesliga leaders Bayer Leverkusen.

Watch: Stuttgart back among the Bundesliga big boys

Although a central striker by trade, Guirassy’s willingness to shift out wide to receive possession is a real boon for his Stuttgart teammates.

In doing so, he drags opposition central defenders out of position whilst opening the space for Undav and Co. to work their own magic. They reciprocate in kind, with nine different players him in 2023/24.

As well as Undav, Chris Führich has been a revelation. Eight goals and seven assists is an impressive return from a splendid season, while his consistency earned him a deserved call-up to Germany's EURO 2024 squad. 

Watch: Guirassy under the microscope

Maximilian Mittelstädt is another example of perseverance paying off. The former Hertha Berlin talent was on the fringes of the starting line-up early in the season, before making his first start in the aforementioned victory over Union. Since November, the left-sided specialist made the position his own.

Gone are the days where Mittelstädt’s versatility was either detrimental to his prospects of regular senior football or underutilised by previous coaches. Instead, he is both modern wing-back and playmaker rolled into one by the ever-astute Sebastian Hoeneß. His two goals and four assists made too compelling case for him not to join Führich in the senior Germany squad. 

We can see a typical example of the patterned unpredictability of Hoeneß’s Stuttgart as well as the interaction between Führich, Mittelstädt and Guirassy in the massive chance created for Enzo Millot below against Cologne. - DFL

Other contributors to Guirassy and Stuttgart’s success include attacking midfielder Enzo Millot and Josha Vagnoman – though Pascal Stenzel and Anthony Rouault deputised at right-back earlier in the campaign. Together, they have given balance, creativity and unpredictability to the right-hand side akin to the Mittelstädt-Führich tandem on the opposite flank. Millot has also operated in more central roles as a No.6, 8 or even 10, adding a touch of je ne sais quoi to the team’s spine of Waldemar Anton and Angelo Stiller.

Stiller was part of the Bayern reserves that Hoeneß steered to an odds-defying 3. Liga title in 2019/20. The 6’0 central midfielder followed his mentor to Hoffenheim, before switching to Stuttgart where he has established himself as the team’s on-field conductor. 

Watch: VfB Stuttgart - AWS analysis

Anton is behind Xhaka for total carries, but the Stuttgart defender finished in the top three of all passing and ball progression metrics. The 27-year-old, previously capped at U21 level for Germany, anchored the second best defence in the Bundesliga, likewise earning a spot in Julian Nagelsmann's Germany squad for UEFA Euro 2024.

The various parts all add up to one formidable Stuttgart machine that was arguably right up there with Xabi Alonso’s Leverkusen for watchability. Hoeneß’s wily spread of creative brilliance married with Guirassy’s razor-finishing had fans on cloud nine and helped steer Stuttgart to a first season of UEFA Champions League football since 2009/10.