VfB Stuttgart captain Christian Gentner is refusing to get carried away with the Swabians' improving form ahead of the Matchday 19 clash with Hamburger SV.
The Baden-Württemberg club extended their unbeaten league run to four matches with a 3-1 success at 1. FC Köln on Saturday, only their second away victory this season. With fellow strugglers Eintracht Frankfurt and SV Werder Bremen both winning on Sunday, however, VfB go into their first home fixture of 2016 teetering play-off position only on goal difference.
'Room for improvement'
Gentner, a midfield linchpin of the VfL Wolfsburg team that won the Bundesliga title in the 2008/09 season, is confident his current side can continue their upward trend in the coming weeks, but has warned his team-mates to keep their feet firmly on the ground.
“Hopefully we’ll have a successful second half of the season, but we still have a long way to go,” stressed the 30-year-old, who scored Stuttgart’s third goal at the RheinEnergieSTADION on Saturday. “Against Köln we took our foot off the gas after taking the lead and dropped a little too deep, which was unnecessary. We showed that there is room for improvement, but to start the year with a win does our confidence the world of good.”
Stuttgart’s upturn in fortunes has coincided with the appointment as coach of former youth team boss Jürgen Kramny, who has overseen two draws and two wins since losing his first match in charge against high-flying Borussia Dortmund in November. Kramny has implemented a change in playing style since replacing Alexander Zorniger in the Mercedes-Benz Arena hot seat, and Gentner feels his side are beginning to reap the rewards.
“Our philosophy is a little different now,” explained the midfielder. “We don’t push quite as high up the pitch as we did under the previous head coach and we aren’t as gung-ho as we used to be. We’re a lot more solid now than we were in the Hinrunde, but we’ll have to wait and see whether we can keep that going. We’ll have setbacks and might go on a three or four-game winless run at some stage. We have to be prepared for that.”
Eyes on HSV
Having beaten VfL Wolfsburg on Matchday 17, Stuttgart now have a chance to record three straight league wins for the first time since the tail-end of last season, when they beat 1. FSV Mainz 05, Hamburg and SC Paderborn to secure Bundesliga survival in the most dramatic of fashions. Gentner, for one, is hoping die Schwaben can safeguard their top flight status much earlier this year, but for now the skipper is focusing only on Saturday’s visit of Die Rothosen.
“They [Hamburg] played very well against Bayern München,” he told bundesliga.com. “They’ve become a lot more solid since Bruno Labbadia took over and it’s going to be a tough game for us. We’ll do our best to dictate the tempo of the game and control proceedings. We’ll prepare as well as we possibly can for that in the coming days.”
Matthew Howarth reporting from Cologne