Munich - Taking the decision to change a coach can often be a painful process. Sometimes it is born of necessity, other times it can be a knee-jerk reaction based on poor results. Often, changes are foreseeable, seldom do they come out of the blue.
What frequently happens after a change at the helm, though, is an upturn in a club’s fortunes. This may only be a temporary trend change, but it can also endure.
That has so far been the case at VfB Stuttgart, where Thomas Schneider has yet to taste defeat in the Bundesliga since replacing Bruno Labbadia earlier this season. While admittedly his reign did not get off to the greatest of starts - a 2-2 draw with HNK Rijeka saw them eliminated from the UEFA Europa League in his very first match in charge - he has presided over three wins and four draws, resulting in a rise of nine positions.
Friday night’s 1-1 draw with 1. FC Nürnberg was the 13th point gained under Schneider. They were still on zero when he took the reins. Given such a transformation in the club’s results, it would seem Schneider has turned the club on its head, yet a closer look reveals he has done very little to a side which, before the season, was being tipped as a serious candidate for a place in Europe next season.
Aside from that draw in Europe, Schneider’s reign started with a bang - a 6-2 hammering of Hoffenheim which saw Stuttgart pick up their first points of the season in style. Of the 11 players who started that game, nine had been on the field in the 2-1 defeat to FC Augsburg, a result which ultimately cost Labbadia his job. Only William Kvist (for Konstantin Rausch) and Timo Werner (for Mohammed Abdellaoue) were tangible changes.
In last Friday’s draw, only the fit-again Georg Niedermeier, Karim Haggui and Martin Harnik were added to the core of a side which has remained largely unaltered during the transition from Labbadia to Schneider. What has changed, and significantly, is the players’ mentality. “Bruno is a very good coach,” said the club’s sporting director Fredi Bobic. “We’ve mastered many crises together, that was never up for discussion, but there was a moment towards the end of pre-season when the contact between the coach and his team disappeared.”
Lifting the dust
In the same way as shifting the furniture in your own living room into different positions can give you a fresh, new outlook, removing one man from the hotseat can reveal quantities of dust in areas where it had been allowed, unwittingly, to accumulate. Sweeping it aside by installing somebody new is like a spring clean, refreshing and revitalising the atmosphere. “The results speak for themselves,” Bobic added on Sky. “We’re heading in the right direction with a dominance we’d not been able to show in previous weeks.”
What Stuttgart will ultimately achieve remains to be seen, but with Alexandru Maxim and Vedad Ibisevic combining so delightfully, no limits are being placed on the potential of a side who, behind FC Bayern München and Bayer 04 Leverkusen, have represented the Bundesliga more than any other club in Europe. That pre-season aim, which was looking so unlikely at the end of August, has now been swept back out from under the carpet, and with the scramble for the fourth UEFA Champions League berth looking wide open, there is little to suggest Schneider cannot throw Stuttgart’s hat into the ring for it.
See what brought the end to Bruno Labbadia's Stuttgart reign, courtesy of the official Bundesliga YouTube channel: