Monday, September 17, 2007

Stuttgart's Swagger Returns

Sometimes we forget how beautiful Stuttgart can play. Sometimes, it seems, they themselves forget. It explains why they sometimes look so average. But lying in wait, at all times, is the ability to play perfect tactical football with short precise passes to keep possession until they can spring a trough-ball. And when it clicks for them, it can be as beautiful to watch as any top attacking club, such as Barcelona, Seville or Arsenal.

We haven’t seen it this season. It’s been missing, even during the Ligapokal, since last season’s miracle run. Fifteen minutes had passed in this week’s home match against Energie Cottbus and still we hadn’t seen it. It wouldn’t be unprecedented as the two clubs rarely play above the nil-nil score lines that pepper the history of their play. So, just as it seemed the game had settled into the now comfortable state of listless football between the two, Stuttgart found their rhythm.

It wasn’t perfect, but at moments it was incredible football that reminded us just how fun Stuttgart can be on their day and why football is the Beautiful Game. To watch Meira or Osario bring the ball out from the back and slot it to the midfield, where Khedira, Pardo, Hilbert and da Silva would play triangles until one of them or the forwards would find a fraction of space and the through ball would be sent, was a delight. And when they would make one of the through-balls, and it would seem errant, yet suddenly Cacau or Marica would find the ball, it was joyous.

Cottbus was a poor side on the day, especially in consideration of the manager’s tenable position. It had been suggested that a loss would see Petrik Senderos fired. They had no impetus and couldn’t deal with Stuttgart’s midfield. They seemed quite willing to sit on a draw for 90 minutes, maybe realizing that it was the most likely result given their history. What their languid attack provided was an impetus for Stuttgart to find their flow. And the game switched suddenly as the Swabians began to take possession and work their short magic.

In the end, Stuttgart walked away with a 3-0 victory, but more importantly they go into Wednesday’s away leg at Ibrox with their swagger and confidence seeming back in tow. If they can keep it, then Rangers, Lyon and Barcelona should well beware of the German champions, because on their day, they can play any of the three off the pitch. The victory may well reverse their fortunes in the Bundesliga at the right time, as well. At the same point last year, they had only two more points than they do this year and we all know how it ended. With Schalke entrenched in draw-mode and Bayern brought back to earth, the champions could well start pushing for the top spot again if they are ready to do what they do best.

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