Episode 46 - M05:VfB … 0:0 and deserves got nothin’ to do with it.
One of my favorite genres are Clint Eastwood western films. I’m not a big fan of the Dirty Harry films or The Bridges of Madison County but the westerns, I’m all in. From The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly trilogy to his award winning Unforgiven to all the ones in between (even Paint Your Wagon!), I’m a sucker for a Clint Eastwood cowboy movie. I still remember watching Unforgiven, on opening night in my small town’s small theatre, by myself, just loving every second of it, and one of the best lines in the film resonates with this particular VfB season: “Deserves got nothin’ to do with it.”
If you haven’t seen the movie, near the end (spoiler alert!), Eastwood’s character William Money is about to kill Gene Hackman’s character, Sheriff “Little Bill.” Right before Money pulls the trigger, Little Bill pleads, “I don't deserve to die like this.” Eastwood's response? “Deserves got nothin’ to do with it.”
VfB doesn’t DESERVE this season. VfB doesn’t deserve to be in 16th place. VfB doesn’t deserve to be behind small clubs like BOC. VfB doesn’t deserve to be behind clubs that play ugly football like FCA. VfB doesn’t deserve to be behind clubs that are as unstable as BSC. And VfB certainly doesn’t deserve to be sweating out a Bayern match where they barely beat relegation rival Bielefeld!
VfB - and really, WE - don’t deserve this because this roster is loaded with young, talented players. All the names we know - Sasa, Sosa, Dino, Orel, Silas, Waldy - and the ones we are getting to know - Tiago, Alexis - and even maybe the ones we know too well - Philipp, Tanguy, Roberto. How many of the current roster could start on more than one of our Bundesliga rivals? And further, how many may be playing in the Premier League or at big time clubs in the near future? SportFreunds Sasa and Sosa for sure, but Dino, Orel, and Tiago could quickly follow. And if Silas is healthy for a single season, he’ll tag along. But that’s okay, because how many highly rated players not currently playing big minutes - or any minutes - come to VfB and will soon be counted on? Faghir and Beyaz are the big names we all know but Sven “The Diamond Eye” surely has some around that we don’t even know of yet. Who saw Sven acquisitions Alexis and Hikori as legit - and key - players this season?
We don’t deserve this because Sven and Mata have given this club something, at least during my time as a supporter, that it has lacked - an identity. Something uniquely “Stuttgart.” Something to be proud of. Call it aggressive football. Call it a youth movement. Call it both so call it jungundwild! But it’s a plan. And it’s a fun and entertaining plan, one that is good for the entire Bundesliga, not just supporters who wear the Brustring. Sven and Mata, both cool and analytical, are doing the right thing. But both Sven and Mata, cool and analytical, are both as invested in VfB as any supporter in the curve. Sven celebrating when Faghir scored the equalizer at Frankfurt and Mata celebrating with the players in front of the curve when Tiago scored the winner versus Augsburg scream passion and are basically mirror images of any VfB supporter watching those same plays whether they were in the visiting section, in Mercedes Benz Arena, or sitting 3,000 miles away in the States. Their emotion was - and is - so perfectly VfB.
We don’t deserve this because we, the supporters, have been just that - supportive. Unlike the previous two relegation campaigns, this one has been marked by its togetherness, by a sense of unity among the Stuttgart faithful. Sure, there are squabbles amongst us regarding certain players and certain lineups and certain tactics and certain results, and there are some of us who in our heart of hearts fear - and have feared - the worst this season. And yes, there is plenty to question, from management to coaching to players. But the common theme of “we are in this together” has been prevalent. As the curve displayed - during a loss to BVB, by the way - gemeinsam zum klassenerhalt - together to stay up. This feeling of together simply wasn’t there in 2016 and 2018. But now? Now it is.
We don’t deserve this because this club is finally - relatively anyway - stable. Yes, Vogt versus Hitzelsberger was ugly and yes, as an American supporter I clearly don’t truly understand the club structure, but when Thomas left, even after all the drama, the supporters still wished him well. Even from 3,000 miles away, one can see that this was no Dietrich situation. Even I understand that THAT kind of goodbye doesn’t happen if a club is truly THAT unstable.
Like Little Bill in Unforgiven, We don’t deserve this. VfB is doing it the right way. With youth. With attractive football. With amazing support, home or away. Even with relative - relative - stability.
But … deserves got nothin’ to do with it, does it?
Because the fact is, this is exactly what we deserve. Injuries? Other clubs have been injured, just check out BVB’s injury report. Illness? Other clubs have been struck by Covid, just ask Mainz. Bad luck? The announcer for the match at Mainz stated that VfB have had 14 shots by opponents hit the woodwork instead of going into the net, so we’ve had good luck as well. Too much youth and not enough leadership? Yes, Dida is lacking but those of us who wanted Gonzalo, he’s only playing 30’ a game for a DSC team that is in deeper water than we are. Poor coaching? Mata can’t score an open netter from the sidelines despite the superiority of VfB’s usual xG.
So what do we deserve? We deserve 16th place on the table. We deserve 28 points after 30 match days. We deserve a relegation scrap.
But we also deserve a chance, and with four matches left, with the results in our hands, we have just that. We can still, together, determine the fate of our season. Our season. Gemeinsam.
Toward the middle of Unforgiven, when Eastwood’s character and his partner, The Schoefield Kid, fulfilled a bounty, killing their target, The Kid, shaken by what just transpired, states, “Yeah. Well, I guess they had it comin’…” The Kid is trying to come face to face with the fact he did something he’ll never get to undo. William Money’s simple reply? “We all got it comin’, kid…”
Whatever this season brings, whatever happens these next four matches, VfB got it comin’. Survival, playoffs, or relegation, the boys in the rot und weiß got it comin’. But they won’t be alone. Gemeinsam! Gemeinsam egal was!
Episode 46 - M05:VfB
So, as there was no possible way to do an audio version of the podcast I figured why not put figurative pen to paper and chat about the most recent match that way.
So, speaking of Mainz versus VfB, my analysis is pretty simple - COME ON AUGSBURG, WHAT IS YOUR PROBLEM!
The draw against a tough Mainz side is one I can live with and to be honest, based on what I saw, it was probably a lucky point. And had Hertha lost - THANKS AUGSBURG! - we’d probably be a lot happier with the result this weekend.
Anyway, what we would have discussed is the following.
On defense, Dino and Ito looked good - what a great hustle play by Dino on that Mainz breakaway, by the way - while Anton at CDM reminded me of Santi Ascicibar from a few seasons ago - great defense, absolutely zero offense. I would have even given Müller some faint praise for having the reaction time to capture the Mainz shot off the woodwork and would have forced residents Florian-hater Matt to agree!
Offensively, Orel looked active, Tiago had a great run and pass that unfortunately went nowhere (I wish Anton would have let it go through and let Dino have one of his power thunder strikes), Omar is really struggling - I would have benched him earlier - and poor Führich is reminding me of Nico Gonzalez’s first season with the club; the one where he couldn’t kick a ball into the ocean even if he was playing on buoy in the Atlantic.
Thankfully Mainz was even worse at finishing than VfB, the woodwork, once again, saved the VfB day, and wt least Bayern did their job and beat up on DSC (though they made it more nerve wracking than it needed to be).
We would have wrapped up talking about the enormous match coming up this weekend at Hertha, where the betting websites currently have the match at an even-steven pick ‘em - meaning there is no favorite. I would have to take VfB and my analysis would be we are heading into the biggest match of the season with what looks like a full roster and I really hope we score early to put the screws to BSC. But as I’m on a losing streak predicting VfB matches, Jeff’s opinion - he’s the only one with a winning record predicting VfB matches - is the one I’d want to hear (and then we’d beg him to help Köln beat the tar out of DSC on Saturday!).
So, with all that said - or not said but written - on to Berlin!
This “we don’t deserve this” blog was written sitting outside an auto repair shop in Georgia as our van broke down on our trip from Cleveland, Ohio en route to Orlando, Florida for a Disney vacation for our three children only four hours away from our destination location. While pondering our travel plight I couldn’t help but ponder what my family did to deserve this. Which led to wondering what VfB did to deserve THEIR plight. Which led to reminiscing about one of my favorite lines from one of my favorite films. And since I am unable to podcast this week as we are on vacation and had almost 10 hours to kill hanging out in a parking lot, I figured this rant would suffice as episode 46.
And also be cathartic.
The fine people of the auto repair shop were truly incredibly friendly and went out of their way to make us feel as hospitable as possible on a hot day when we just wanted to get as far away from that auto repair place as possible. Their sacrifice of five hours of their day - on Easter Sunday of all days - showed we weren’t alone.
Which made me think of VfB and all their support. Hence the theme of the prologue.
Sidebar - I clearly think about VfB waaaaaaay to much and we just pulled in to “the most magical place on earth.” But am I writing about Disney? Or Auto Zone?! Stay tuned!
All photos courtesy of VfB.de and Getty Images