St Pauli 1-2 Stuttgart

The first half formations.

Defensive naivety cost St Pauli dearly in this relegation six-pointer against a resurgent Stuttgart side.

The stakes couldn’t have been much higher going into this game, as 17th placed Suttgart knew a win at the Millerntor would take them out of the relegation zone at the expense of St Pauli. The home side were hammered 5-0 by in-form Nuremberg last weekend, whereas Stuttgart beat Champions League quarter-finalists Schalke. There was no Carlos Zambrano at the back or Matthias Lehmann in midfield for St Pauli, and no Khalid Boulahrouz or Cacau for Stuttgart. Continue reading

Groß problems at Stuttgart?

Current VfB Stuttgart coach Christian Gross

Stuttgart have picked up the box labelled ‘our midfielders‘, turned it upside down, and given it an almighty shake.

Alexander Hleb (back to Barcelona),Roberto  Hilbert (Beşiktaş) and Martin Lanig (Köln) are all gone, and Sami Khedira, so impressive in the recent World Cup and U21 European Championships, appears Bernabéu-bound.

However, these losses aren’t necessarily all negatives – Hleb was painfully inconsistent, Lanig was deputy in the defensive midfield position to the classy Christian Träsch, while it seems Hilbert and Khedira have been or will be replaced directly. Continue reading

McClaren’s new-ish Wolfsburg

2010/11 Wolfsburg in a 4-4-2?

Steve McClaren, via transfer director Dieter Hoeneß, has set his VfL Wolfsburg revolution to full steam ahead.

For starters, Obafemi Martins, a peripheral figure last season, has been sold to Rubin Kazan. This was the right move for all concerned, with the Nigerian striker never settling in Germany.

As Lorenz-Günter Köstner stuck by Felix Magath’s 4-3-1-2, last season’s Plan B tended to be an injection of width, rendering the former Inter striker surplus to requirements.

Also shown the door have been Jan Šimůnek, an unexceptional full-back from the Czech Republic, and South American midfielder Jonathan Santana. Continue reading

Will Steve McClaren resuscitate Wolfsburg?

England’s Wally With The Brolly left FC Twente at just the right moment. Having delivered the league title and a spot in the Champions League group stage, McClaren will forever hold a place in the club’s history.

But with the centre-forward bound for MLS, the left-winger returning to Chelsea after a loan spell, chief playmaker nearing retirement, and the right winger, left-sided centre-back, and left-back potentially lured elsewhere, the replication of last season’s feat looks very difficult.

FC Twente, 2009/10

McClaren’s Overijssel outfit operated in what was deemed 4-3-3. However, the actuality of the system altered from what was stated on the tin. Two hard-working shuttlers flanked a regista in the centre, and the inside-out wingers would drop back. On-ball, they’d always cut infield – Miroslav Stoch tending to shoot, and Bryan Ruiz making disguised through-balls.

Twente weren’t much fun to watch, however. They’d start play via very cynical, overdrawn melina. Then, one of Douglas or Dwight Tiendalli would carry the ball forward at pace. Alternatively, one of the showing widemen or Kenneth Perez would drop, collect, and instigate. McClaren stuck by this system with great rigidity, and it served him well.

The tools currently available at his new employers, VFL Wolfsburg, won’t allow him to employ a similar system. So does McClaren bring his tried and tested tactics across, or adjust to the formula currently in place at the 8th-placed Bundesliga finishers? Continue reading