What used to be a surprise solution has become a permanent solution. Coach Pellegrino Matarazzo grows with his tasks in Stuttgart. The protection of the sports director helps him. This season, VfB is only concerned with remaining in the league, but it may be rougher in the dressing room.
Stuttgart (dpa/lsw) - 949 days have passed since VfB Stuttgart announced on December 30, 2019, somewhat surprisingly, that the until then largely unknown Pellegrino Matarazzo would be the new head coach. Half an eternity by Swabian standards. Only Bruno Labbadia lasted longer on her bench - between December 2010 and August 2013 it was even 987 days for him. But Matarazzo should surpass him very soon.
It is the fourth season in Stuttgart for the Italian-American. After the successful start of the competitive game in the DFB Cup at Dynamo Dresden (1-0), things will start again on Sunday (3.30 p.m. / DAZN) against RB Leipzig in the Bundesliga – and for both the team and the coach of the VfB about taking the next step. Promotion in the first and a strong ninth place in the second was followed by last-minute rescue in the third season. In the new season, too, "our goal is clearly to stay in the league," emphasized Matarazzo again on Friday. But he would certainly not mind if it was achieved a little more confidently than last time.
"A certain sharpness, an awareness that every point and every goal is important," the 44-year-old demanded of his team. In the past season, which was largely a drama and had its happy end with the 2-1 win against 1. FC Köln on the last day of the game, the Stuttgarters often lacked this last greed.
Sure: VfB had to cope with a lot of injury or illness-related absences, top performers like Sasa Kalajdzic or Silas Katompa Mvumpa were missing for months. Both offensively and defensively Matarazzo has definitely recognized potential for improvement. Pushing into the opening spaces up front with more speed and determination and finding a better set-up at the back are among his tasks for the players for the upcoming tasks.
The against cup winners and Champions League participants Leipzig will be tricky. Goalscorer Kalajdzic is available again after ankle problems. For how many minutes, we shall see. The newly brought striker Luca Pfeiffer is also an option, explained Matarazzo. Darko Churlinov and Pascal Stenzel (both back problems) are wobbling, Borna Sosa (training deficit) will still be missing. The Leipzig are "extremely variable", warned the VfB coach. It is important for his team to find the right balance.
But Matarazzo not only wants to develop them, but also himself. He has already changed his approach somewhat, he recently explained to "Stuttgarter Nachrichten" and "Stuttgarter Zeitung". Instead of a flat hierarchy, he now relies more on a “clear leadership axis on and off the pitch” in his team.
Because of his former studies, Matarazzo no longer likes to be pigeonholed as a "quiet guy" or "mathematician". "Anyone who knows me knows that there are a lot of emotions in me," he recently emphasized. His celebration of the saving goal against Cologne in May, when he sprinted to the corner flag, showed that Matarazzo is now showing more of himself in public. His self-confidence has increased - certainly helped by sports director Sven Mislintat, who always puts himself in front of him like a protective shield. Now VfB and its coach want to keep growing.