Timo Werner's inconsistency in attack nearly cost Stuttgart the three points against Hamburg on Saturday. DW's Stefan Bienkowski discusses how the midfield saved the home side, again.
Stuttgart were deserving of all three points when they welcomed Hamburg to the Mercedes-Benz Arena on Saturday evening. Yet the progress made by Jürgen Kramny's side was almost all undone by another unclinical performance from star striker, Timo Werner.
Hamburg started the match on a nervous footing, as the home side did their best to take advantage of Dennis Diekmeier's tendency to venture forward. Unfortunately for Bruno Labaddia's side that's exactly how things remained as Stuttgart took to the task of breaking down their opponents from one wing to the next.
When fit, Diekmeier has been a constant member of Labbadia's defence, but didn't look up to the task of keeping Filip Kostic quiet over the course of the 90 minutes. Time and time again the Serbian danced passed his marker - even when Nicolai Müller doubled up - and should have had at least two assists to his name before half-time, if not for the finishing of his colleagues in attack.
Kramny has very recently started playing Lukas Rupp on the right wing in a conservative 4-1-4-1 formation, and Stuttgart have also profited from Rupp's ingenuity on the wing. Coming into the game on Saturday, the 25-year-old had two assists and a goal from his side's last four games. In short, he has very quickly defined himself as one of Stuttgart's most vital players.
Against Hamburg Rupp was once again tasked with running the wing, allowing Daniel Didavi to step inside and play as a number 10 in front of Christian Genter but just behind Timo Werner. Hamburg's defense couldn't get control.
In the opening 45 minutes it was Didavi who kept Stuttgart ticking over as he played a constantly offside Werner through on goal with the help of his two wide men. Although Stuttgart went in to the break without a goal on the scoreboard they had shown just how easy it was for their front four to break through Hamburg's defence.
Yet if there was one fault to Stuttgart's attacking intent it was their inability to finish the numerous chances they created. In the first half they had no less than five attempts on Hamburg's goal, with Werner failing to convert two of them. They should have been out of sight long before the half-time break.
The 19-year-old Werner is still very much a raw talent, despite the adoration of Stuttgart and neutral fans alike over the past few years. With just four goals to his name as Stuttgart's lone striker, it's clear that Kramny's squad desperately need Daniel Ginczek to return.
Stuttgart have now won three Bundesliga games in a row, and look reborn under new head coach Jürgen Kramny
Fortunately for the home side, the midfield once again stepped in and got the vital goals that Werner seemed incapable of claiming for himself.
Didavi's ninth goal of the season - the midfield's 16th - seemed to finally put some distance between Stuttgart and their struggling rivals. Substitute Artjoms Rudnevs levelled the scoring with an exquisite diving header, showing the composure his counterpart at the other end of the pitch had lacked all evening.
The Stuttgart manager had seen enough when he pulled Werner off just a few moments later for Artem Kravets - a striker who had arrived in the January transfer window after scoring just two goals in 12 league games for Dynamo Kiev.
Yet Werner's turmoil didn't end there. With Stuttgart looking resigned to accepting a point from a game they had dominated from start to finish, Alexandru Maxim stepped on to the pitch. Sixty seconds later the attacker swung a cross in to an unmarked Kravets to cushion a header passed Rene Adler.
Didavi had scored, Kravets had scored, Stuttgart had claimed all three points and Kramny's side were out of the relegation zone. Another uncomposed performance from the club's most exciting prospect nearly cost them it all, though.