When Weinzierl.exe stopped working for good

and how Martin the Mechanic Schmidt fixed Augsburg

Stuttgart capitulate to Augsburg, Weinzierl.exe stops working - ALT F4 required

Markus Weinzierl’s final game was against his former Augsburg side, now led by Martin Schmidt. FCA were without top scorer Alfred Finnbogason (season-ending surgery) and now regular keeper Gregor Kobel (concussion), which probably fueled the Weinzierl’s optimism. The Stuttgart coach had plans to cut the seven point deficit to four, against FCA’s new look 4-1-4-1 that beat Frankfurt last weekend. WELL, THAT ESCALATED QUICKLY.

https://twitter.com/MartinPanik1893/status/11

19613737642672132

Short on defensive mids due to Gentner’s lack of form and Ascacibar’s six game ban, Weinzierl opted to put rising Turkish CB and lone VfB bright spot Ozan Kabak next to Gonzalo Castro. Meanwhile Timo Baumgartl, a fixture earlier this season, got just his second spring start alongside Pavard and Kempf in the 3-4-2-1.

FCA used Marco Richter, who grabbed two goals against Eintracht, as a lone striker ahead of Michael Gregoritsch, who last weekend also finally scored his first goal since December. Philipp Max returned, but not as a LM, due to Schmidt’s preference of the combative Stafylidis at LB, while Rani Khedira moved from CB against Frankfurt into the no. 8 slot next to Gregoritsch, with Kevin Danso taking up his spot in defense.


Pressing, long balls and aerial duels early

The early phase of the game saw both teams with hectic possession and effective high pressing and counterpressing.

Stuttgart used a five man high press to effectively control 7 FCA players in the buildup, which allowed to maintain a numerical superiority in the back, on the end of a goal kick from Luthe:

Perhaps due to the importance of the match, there was very little risk-taking on either side and defenders were happy to pass back to the GKs who would launch it up vs pressure. None of this is particularly surprising, for these teams are 2nd and 3rd behind Eintracht in total aerial duels.

With Andreas Luthe playing over the excellent passing Kobel and Augsburg in a four man defense (harder to create numerical superiority vs. the press), long balls were always going to increase. Did I mention that these two teams play the most inaccurate long balls in the Bundesliga?

Even when Stuttgart changed up their pressing to a 4-3-3, Luthe was not really able and willing to take advantage, as he failed to make this pass (blue)


Kabak’s difficulties as the no 6.

In the fifth minute, Pavard found Mario Gomez with a nice line-breaking pass, the layoff went to Kabak. The FCA press was late and if the 19-year-old had opted for a chipped pass, or just one that didn’t hit Daniel Baier (a good seven yards away), Stuttgart could’ve had a 3v2. Apparently in training during the week, Kabak did well at the number six, but he played a total of six minutes at the position for Galatasaray, having been subbed in at the end of a 6-0 win.

His inexplicable 17th minute back pass that went to Philipp Max right outside the box and resulted in a 31% chance (via XG) for Marco Richter was also huge error that went unpunished.


“Der Tschonni” Schmid

Augsburg began to take advantage thanks to good counterpressing by Gregoritsch and some excellent crossing on the right side by everyone’s favorite Frenchman with the most German sounding name ever: Jonathan Schmid. (admit it, you have added an extra T at the end at least 4 times…)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dltPVIZWdbE

“Der Tschonni”, as Christian Streich, the legendary coach who played a pivotal role in his development,  would say, used to be a bit of a wild man in his Freiburg days - doing somersaults with a kayak, pop a wheelies on Sunday regeneration bicycle rides - has become a versatile right sided crossing machine for Augsburg. For the season, he succeeds about 1.5 times against 3 inaccurate crosses (30 vs 72 total), which along with Jerome Roussillon is among the better ratios in the Bundesliga. The league leader in volume, Joshua Kimmich also sports a 30% efficiency, but he averages around 2.3 accurate ones to 5.1 bad ones, while second place Philipp Max is at 27% but at double the volume. (note, this does not include set pieces) With his breakout 12 assist campaign, last season, Max’s crossing forte has been a well-known advantage for FCA, but Schmid is just as capable. Ironically, it’s the Frenchman with 3.31 XA and SIX assists that is riding the same hot streak that Max was on last season, his 12 helpers came on 8.87 eXpected Assists, per Understat.com.

Schmid, who ended the match with 54 pass attempts, led all players with a whopping TWENTY passes after just 11 minutes (Hahn was second with seven), an indication that FCA liked that right side attack. It would pay off fast.

When Steven Zuber got dispossessed in the ninth minute, it led to Schmid’s first dangerous cross, but Marco Richter lost the aerial against the much taller Baumgartl. Just a minute later, though, as both Insua and Kempf came late, the very active André Hahn played Schmid  in down the wing. Schmid had time to pick out a cross and found a streaking Khedira - stop me BVB fans if you heard this one, but Gonzalo Castro was 5 yards behind him - to put the home side one-nil up.

To his credit, Markus Weinzierl reacted immediately, switching to a 4-4-2 - 4-2-3-1 where Baumgartl became the RB with Esswein and Zuber as the RWM-LM.

Temporarily, it kind of worked, as Mario Gomez first took a bad touch inside the box, then a minute later fired off an awkward angle shot in the 13th minute.

Unfortunately for Weinzierl and Stuttgart, Augsburg ended up punishing mistakes, although not Kabak’s back pass. The ensuing corner saw André Hahn get separation from Zuber and fire in a bullet to make it 2-0. It was the 14th set piece goal FCA scored, one behind Bayern for the Bundesliga lead.


Chances not taken

Just a minute later, two very good crosses saw Nico Gonzalez get very unlucky not to make it 2-1.

But Schmid and Hahn created another excellent chance for Richter, who could not convert on an 11%-er in the 20th minute. Weinzierl would try and tinker: Kabak moved to 3rd CB in the buildup (21st minute), Castro would distribute toward the high fullbacks and the press became more aggressive.

While this approach led to a decent chance for Esswein in the 22nd, Stuttgart always looked fragile whenever their counterpress failed, or they lost possession (Kabak in the 24th) and Augsburg could counter.  Up two goals, with the aggression of Hahn, the creativity of Richter, Khedira and Gregoritsch and the runs of Max, FCA dealt the final blow in the 29th minute:

A simple ball through the middle by Gouweleeuw (not pressured) and the layoff by Khedira found Richter in space, away from Kabak. The youngster, whose game I likened to Mario Götze in a preseason profile, drew all three VfB defenders in, before releasing Max.

The former Schalke man kept his run on side and didn’t forget the finishing instincts that made him a feared goalscorer as a natural LW at the youth level and made it 3-0.


Augsburg buildup patterns via Baier\Khedira and Gregoritsch’s corner headers

With a three goal lead, Augsburg retreated into a very compact 4-1-4-1, but when needed would get excellent defensive contributions from the hard-working André Hahn. The former HSV man was all over the pitch and wasn’t afraid to intervene, leading the game with six fouls. Yet, it was their new buildup patterns that impressed me. Under Manuel Baum, Rani Khedira, naturally more the double pivot partner of the indomitable Daniel Baier, often played as the 3rd CB with or without the ball.Due to the loan of Hinteregger and the difficulties of Danso\Oxford fitting in, Khedira has often been the other CB next to Gouweleeuw  in the Rückrunde. Martin Schmidt goes about it differently, for him Khedira is much more of an attacking player, an 8 that can find space between the lines, or get on the end of chances. Take a look at his passes received before going out injured on 37 minutes vs. a game against Nürnberg in November (tried to pick a similar opponent to VfB):

It will be interesting to see if the Stuttgart born and raised Khedira’s potential can be unlocked in Schmidt’s system.

Michael Gregoritsch’s goalscoring difficulties have also been well-document, as the 4 goals of the former HSV man are well below his XG of 8.83. The Austrian has similar (0.35 XG\90 both year) or better numbers (XA and Key Passes are up, more shots in box) this season, but is 0 for 5 in shots on 1.81 XG inside the six yard box. While that could be chalked up to bad luck, one reason for Gregoritsch’s struggles is using his HEAD a little too often: In his previous 3 seasons 22.6% of his 194 total shots were headers and for those 44 headed shots he has 5 goals on 4.5 XG. This season, the Austrian is up to 28 shots with his noggin from 78 total attempts, but has just 2 goals vs 3.56 XG. Incredibly, 14, or HALF of those shots come from corners, and he has 1 goal vs 1.5 XG on them. Literally, every single shot he has from a corner is a HEADER!!!

What’s even more staggering is that in the previous 3 seasons he attempted just 16 shots from corners, with 2 goals vs 1.94 XG. Two of these were with feet, the small purple dot and the big green one, the latter,  a 0.82 XG one while at HSV, skewing the numbers.

In this game he had two headers that he skied over for 0.09XG, one from the six yard box and one from the penalty spot. Nevertheless, Martin Schmidt’s pushed him wide right and into the halfspaces during buildup and that seemed to work. Daniel Baier dropped back to aid the buildup as the third CB.

By using Gregoritsch this way, Augsburg could push both Hahn (to striker at times) and Schmid up and dominate the right wing.

The pass map shows this as well, with lots of excellent short passes, 87% pass completion and all but one non-attacking third pass completed. The difference is really start when you see how he was used as a second striker against Mainz and it’s something to monitor down the road.


Second half - personnel changes  “improve” Stuttgart, still concede three more times

“When you have 4 CBs who are all athletic enough (Pavard, Kabak, Baumgartl, Kempf) to play as fullbacks and are down 3-0, you might as well just try something different” - is what Weinzierl must have thought, because he took out his starting wingbacks Esswein and Insua and put Kabak next to Pavard in the four chain, with Kempf as the LB. Daniel Didavi entered the game next to Castro and was tasked with pressing high when Baier dropped. It was a 4-4-2 with the ball, with Anastasios Donis taking up the RM spot, Stuttgart, who completed just three dribbles got some much needed speed and dribbling from the Greek who would succeed on all 5 of his attempts. Yet, for the opening 15 minutes of the second, that would be all the success VfB would enjoy, as FCA dominated possession and shots (60% and 6-1) and scored two more goals. The lone Stuttgart shot came after FCA’s 4-2-2-2 press was beaten by an overlapping run by Donis (and a great chipped pass from Kabak, albeit it was intended for Gomez and Donis only got to it because Stafylidis misjudged it), but his half-shot - half- cross didn’t really trouble Luthe. His 57th minute run, getting past Max and Stafylidis also lacked end product.

Richter’s turnaround “jumper” was set up by Gregoritsch and brought a fine save from Zieler in the 47th.


All Rise for the judge, Marco Richter

Yet, the U21 NT striker would not be deterred and finally got his goal in the 53rd with a great curler - volley after some confusion over a Kabak handball. If I wrote that his game reminded me of Mario Götze, that finish erased any confusion.


The fifth goal was also a nice example of how FCA dominated the right side, especially after Gouweleeuw beat the first line of pressing despite a 3v4 disadvantage:

Gregoritsch’s movement in the half space caused problems, and his lay off to Schmid initiated a third man run from Hahn. The Augsburg returnee took it all the way down the wing and despite a heavy touch was able to put in a great sliding cross to Max, who slotted it past Zieler for 5-0.  Augsburg have never scored five goals in their Bundesliga history, but they had another half hour left to play. They would win the shots (8-7) and possession battle (58-42%) but lose on XG 1.2 to 0.5, though I doubt they cared and those high VfB chances were probably skewed by the rebounds in the 65th minute. Hahn himself should have gotten the sixth and would have deserved his second, but was only able to smash the ball at Zieler from dead center, 12 yards out.


Stuttgart chances

The VfB chances came after good switches from Pavard, diagonal passes by Kabak and Luthe’s one and only attempted short pass vs a press, it went wayward and ended up at Didavi, who just missed the far corner with a low driven shot in the 64th. That was not his biggest chance, because Didavi and Gomez somehow managed to not score here:

It wasn’t quite Bürki vs Mainz, but this Luthe double save was definitely a sign that Stuttgart were just not gonna score in this one. (They also argued a handball in the 71st).

Philipp Max missed his hattrick after trying to chip Zieler on a 1v1, but Richter made it six just seconds later: a brilliant first touch to shrug off Kabak, then dribbled into the middle ahead of Castro and unleashed an absolute bomb to get his back to back brace!

Aside from Ozan Kabak pulling a Phil Jones headed clearance vs Hahn, the introduction of Julian Schieber and Moravek’s 84th minute miss and Donis missing on a counter, not much happened in the remaining minutes. Manuel Grafe’s whistle was both a relief and the end of the road for Weinzierl who was fired after the match.


Takeaways

For Augsburg, Martin Schmidt’s on fire with back to back wins and in just two matches, the Swiss coach has two-thirds of the wins they had under Manuel Baum in the Rückrunde. The short term injuries to Gouweleeuw and Khedira are worrying against Leverkusen, while Finnbogason is out for the season. Because they are already without Dong - Won “Dortmundslayer” Ji and Sergio Cordova, they might hand a debut to 18-year-old Korean winter signing Seong-hoon Cheon who already sat on the bench in this one. Of course, if Richter and Max keep scoring braces and Hahn + Gregoritsch look rejuvenated under Schmidt, that might not have to happen. Regardless, with 31 points earned and a ten point cushion vs 16th place Stuttgart plus Schalke, whom they face on MD32, looking just as poor, Augsburg are finally safe.

Stuttgart’s season has once again hit a low-point, and they have been above the relegation playoff spot after MD 1 only once this season. Tayfun Korkut’s eight match sample yielded five points (so 0.62 ppg) vs 8.85 expected, with a -11 GD against -4 XGD. Weinzierl’s 24 point reign ended with just 16 points, which is a 0.66 PPG, so technically it’s an improvement. In actuality, going 4wins 4 draws and SIXTEEN losses, with a -35 goal difference (vs. -22XGD) and getting 19.77 expected points is only better than the historically bad Nürberg and H96 teams. Of course, losing by six in a classic relegation six point was always gonna end up with Weinzierl getting canned, and it’s up to U19 coach Nico Willig to make something of the last four games: two home matches vs Gladbach and Wolfsburg that look difficult, and two road games against fellow struggles Hertha and Schalke. Luckily for VfB, Nürnberg also play those two “green” teams, but not before hosting Bayern, so it’s possible that 22 points could actually avoid direct relegation. That means two very interesting things:

  1. It would be the lowest point total since HSV’s 27 in 2013\14

  2. Given that HSV have been struggling to hold on to second place, the possibility of a Hannes Wolf revenge match looms large.

Thanks for reading,

Abel