It took a night before he could take to heart what Sebastian Hoeneß had so urgently ordered his players to do. The coach of VfB Stuttgart said there were “two possible scenarios” before the semi-finals in the DFB Cup against Eintracht Frankfurt: Either they made it into the final in Berlin, “then there would be a lot of joy here” – or there is one Defeat, “then the disappointment will be great”. But in any case, the most important thing is “that we immediately put our focus back on the relegation battle, no matter how it turns out”.
What Hoeneß couldn’t count on earlier in the week was the way his team lost 2-3 (1-0) on Wednesday. VfB Stuttgart was very unlucky to retire and was almost stunned for a moment. Everything that makes a cup fight was offered in Cannstatt. VfB led 1-0 at the break, it could have been 2-0 or 3-0 for the hosts. Then the Stuttgarters gave up the game and were 1:3 behind.
Borna Sosa, one of their best, lost his nerve and was sent off. There were pack formations, but the Hoeneß team fought back. Enzo Millot scored the 2:3 in the 83rd minute. The stadium was bubbling – but in the end there was a fateful decision when VfB were denied a hand penalty that could have meant the 3:3 and thus the extra time. The ball hit Frankfurt’s Aurélio Buta in his own penalty area, but referee Daniel Schlager didn’t recognize a penalty.
So the dominant emotion wasn’t just disappointment – it was also anger. Hoeneß himself had to control himself when he was asked to comment on Referee Schlager’s decision. “It’s hard for us to accept,” he said. It’s okay to get angry – but then look ahead again the morning after. “Nevertheless, I saw a team that showed unbelievable morale,” said Hoeneß. “We will go to Berlin and show such morality again.”
The basement duel with Hertha BSC is on Saturday (3.30 p.m., Sky). Until then, Hoeneß believes, he will somehow manage to steer his players’ anger in the right direction. The 40-year-old can definitely be trusted. Because since the son of the former Bayern striker and Hertha manager Dieter Hoeneß has been training VfB, the team has been much more combative and self-confident.
He only took over the team on April 3rd. Apart from the defeat on Wednesday, his record is impeccable. Eight points were taken from four Bundesliga games. There was also a 1-0 draw in the cup quarter-finals in Nuremberg. However, the 3:3 against title contenders Borussia Dortmund three weeks ago was particularly striking: the relegation candidate had made up a 0:2 deficit when outnumbered.
This almost unheard-of willpower made the competition sit up and take notice. Ironically, VfB, who had always been confirmed as having potential in the game, but also as weak nerves, suddenly showed unprecedented determination. With the 2-1 win over Gladbach last Saturday, Stuttgart climbed up to 15th place in the table – for the first time since the 23rd match day, VfB are above the line again.
“Sebastian managed to give the team self-confidence and courage. As a result, we also worked our way back into the game,” said Alexander Wehrle at WELT AM SONNTAG. The CEO is relieved that the fourth coach in the current season seems to be the right one. Hoeneß makes both “the right decisions and the right tone”. Above all, however, he has a “good feeling” for the team, according to Wehrle.
Unthinkable if Hoeneß, like his predecessor Bruno Labbadia, had also not found access to the players. Wehrle had brought him in at the beginning of December, which turned out to be a misunderstanding: seven of eleven Bundesliga games were lost under Labbadia, the supposed “fireman”. Stuttgart slipped to the bottom of the table, the fans were angry, the pressure on Wehrle in particular was great. After all, he had not listened to the recommendation of former sports director Sven Mislintat, who had publicly advocated continuing to employ interim coach Michael Wimmer.
Wehrle had never valued Mislintat, who was shot in Stuttgart but is still popular and almost all of whom put together the current team. There was already friction immediately after Wehrle took office. The break came in September when the CEO presented Sami Khedira and Philipp Lahm, two advisors, and Christian Gentner, a new head of the licensed player department – without informing Mislintat.
From there it was clear that Mislintat, who had organized the rebuild before the 2020 resurgence, had to go. In December the time had come. But the process still occupies the club, which also became clear last Sunday when Wehrle was a guest in Sport1’s “double pass” and had to listen to a number of allegations. The return of hope that VfB could be first-class again in the coming season is therefore also important for Wehrle personally. Since Hoeneß has been there, the team has regained its potential – and it looks like the club has calmed down a bit.
The coach succeeds in doing this primarily by restoring his trust to controversial players. When asked what his recipe for the positive development was, he answered: “What is always decisive is the head and the belief in your own strength as well as the unity of the team.” He could also have said: The conviction that a turnaround can only be achieved together Being able to bring about this is the prerequisite for staying in the class. Exactly what hadn’t distinguished VfB in the past few months.