Gross takes fall, but VfB Stuttgart's issues run deeper than manager
VfB Stuttgart's early-season woes are nothing new. For the last few years the Swabians have started the season lethargically, only to look like a different, stronger team in the second half of the season.
But sitting 18th and last in the Bundesliga table, with only three points from seven games this season, management was alarmed enough to change coaches yet again.
"We are in a state of emergency," VfB Stuttgart president
Bobic did acknowledge that the Gross was still popular with many supporters but stressed that the decision had to be taken now "for the good of the club."
As another coach falls victim to Stuttgart's struggles --
Even by Stuttgart standards, the start of the campaign has been a disaster. And the buck stops with Gross, naturally. But playing the blame game is more complicated in Germany, where the manager is not the sole decision maker and power is shared by a number of officials.
Former manager Babbel, now in charge at second-division Hertha BSC Berlin, believes Stuttgart's travails can be explained by a lack of professionalism among the players.
"Each and every one of them has to ask himself whether he's giving his all for the team," the 38-year-old Babbel said shortly before Gross' dismissal.
One ex-Stuttgart player, who won the league in 2007 but has since moved on, also criticized the squad's attitude.
"They are a rowdy, undisciplined bunch," he told SI.com.
Gross, a man of experience and gravitas, coped well with his task in the beginning. Therefore, other factors must have come into play. Stuttgart lost two important players in German international
There is a sense as well that Bobic, a rookie in his position, is still finding his feet in the transfer market. Gross was certainly sad to see Bobic's predecessor,
"It's not easy when you work with a sporting director who didn't sign you and has his own ideas," the Zurich-born coach told the newspaper
Gross made no secret of his wish to strengthen the team further, but he was frustrated by the board's policy of fiscal prudence. Stuttgart is turning its Mercedes Benz Arena into a "proper" football stadium, and a sizable part of the team's budget has been spent on the renovations rather than new players. In online forums, angry fans went as far as to claim that the club was being "starved to death" economically.
Gross bemoaned that Stuttgart was investing "into bricks, not legs" this year and felt that a $20.9 million cut for the playing staff left the squad short.
"The club's main goal is to finish the stadium," he told reporters. "When are our hands no longer tied [financially]?"
In Stuttgart, a football town high in passion but short on patience, many supporters have started to point the finger at the overly cautious board as the real culprit. Local broadsheet
Hundt, always the consummate politician, is having none of it.
"We have a budget that ranks us among the top six in the league," he said. "I don't think it is the supervisory board's responsibility that expensive recruits don't play or play badly. It's also not the supervisory board's responsibility that highly paid players squander great chances recklessly. And the supervisory board is not to blame for the fact that there's no cohesion between the different parts of the team."
The interim appointment of Keller, 39, is a cheap solution, and it also helps the board to hedge its bets. If the former Stuttgart pro, who asked the players to put "heart, mind, effort and passion" into the next games, succeeds, club officials can claim that Gross was the problem all along. If the horror season continues unabated, they can bring in a bigger name like German FA sporting director
More managerial changes, however, cannot deflect the attention forever. There will surely come a point when the supporters will no longer put up with their club's split personality and demand wholesale changes at the highest level.