Widely expected to be challenging for a place in the UEFA Europa League at the very least, the South West's biggest club instead found themselves mired in the relegation dogfight right through until the penultimate matchday. bundesliga.com takes a closer look…
Bruno Labbadia did not see it through to September, becoming the first coaching casualty of the season after Stuttgart lost their opening three games. His successor Thomas Schneider started promisingly with a 6-2 thrashing of regional rivals 1899 Hoffenheim, and a seven-game unbeaten run boded well for the former U-17 coach. A 6-1 defeat at Borussia Dortmund brought that to an abrupt end, though, and not long after, VfB spiralled into an eight-game losing spin that ended with Huub Stevens supplanting Schneider.Top-flight survival was the veteran Dutch coach's simple mandate and he duly fulfilled it, although with not too much to spare, as Stuttgart finished one place above the drop zone.
Stuttgart certainly didn't have their defensive problems to seek, not least when it came to conceding vital late goals. Nevetheless, 's progress over the season was tremendous: 30 starting appearances, his first Bundesliga goal - in the aforementioned drubbing of Hoffenheim - and even a debut full international appearance for Germany all added up to a real breakthrough season for the 21-year-old centre-back.
Starting with a 3-1 defeat at Wolfsburg on 14 December, Stuttgart lost every game in the Bundesliga through to 2 March's 2-1 reverse at Eintracht Frankfurt (pictured: keeper Sven Ulreich and midfielder Moritz Leitner).That
eight-game sequence is a new and most certainly unsought club record for VfB in all their 49 seasons in the top flight.
"My wife's always saying I'm a bit mad. She may well be right, but I'm still enjoying it," Huub Stevens assured the press after parachuting into the Stuttgart hot seat in March.
They were few and far between, but a 3-1 home victory over FC Schalke 04 put Stuttgart in sight of safety on Matchday 31. Stevens' former charges had headed south in fine form and confident of taking another step towards a top-three finish, but a brace from Martin Harnik and a spirited all-round performance saw VfB claim three vital points in their eventually successful bid for safety.