By Ultan Corcoran@UltanCorcoran

Bundesliga End of Season Awards: Bochum's Player of the Season

With 9 votes from our team of writers, Kevin Stöger becomes one of only three other Bundesliga players to complete the clean sweep, and in doing so picks up VfL Bochum’s Player of the Season award.

VfL Bochum’s Bundesliga existence looked destined to end after three consecutive seasons in the topflight. Last Thursday’s capitulation in the Promotion-Relegation Play-Off practically sealed their fate. A chastening 3-0 defeat at home to Fortuna Düsseldorf. Despite spending 27 of the 34 Matchdays outside of any relegation positions in the table, Bochum found themselves short on luck. It’s been a season of consistent inconsistencies to the say the least – chastening defeats to Stuttgart (5-0), Bayern (7-0) and Leverkusen (5-0) also made way for unimaginable victories over… once again… Stuttgart (1-0), Bayern (3-2), and a seemingly relegation allaying 4-3 triumph over Union Berlin. 

However, one name that remained consistent and persistent throughout was Kevin Stöger. The Austrian architect in midfield played a pivotal role in Bochum’s season. One could argue without his excellence direct relegation might have been inevitable. With a whopping 7 goals and 9 assists in 32 appearances the numbers speak for themselves. Equating to 38% involvement in Bochum’s goal tally, the nifty playmaker was at the epicentre of most attacks. Remember that first-leg playoff? Perhaps fitting that Stoger laid off 2 further assists and converted a penalty to force a 3-3 draw in the return-leg. Sweeter yet, another successful spot-kick in the pivotal 6-5 shoot-out win that cements Bochum’s class in the German footballing pyramid. A comeback for the ages masterminded by the 30-year-old Austrian. 

Perhaps the most remarkable stat of Kevin Stöger’s season lies in the chances created category. With a whopping 127 chances created (3.96 created per 90), Stöger dwarfs that of his nearest competitors in the Bundesliga. Only Gladbach’s Franck Honorat (89) and Dortmund’s Julian Brandt (80) came close to his figures in that department. The 30-year-old has undoubtedly posted his best Bundesliga season to date, excelling beyond his time at Mainz and, ironically, Düsseldorf who he just reacquainted with to preserve Bochum’s Bundesliga status. His days in blue may be numbered according to reports as Augsburg and Gladbach have reportedly shown interest. One thing for sure is Stöger’s 2023/24 campaign won’t be forgotten amongst fans of the Rührpott club. 

STANDOUT PERFORMANCE:

Where to start with this one? Although Bochum’s results might give a different impression, Kevin Stöger has laid on masterclass after masterclass this season. One could easily nominate multiple performances, but his crowning moment came in the 3-2 win over Bayern Munich back on Matchday 22. One of only two wins Bochum have achieved over the German giants since 2003-04. Although he bagged a brace in Bochum’s 3-2 win over TSG Hoffenheim on Matchday 31, the significance of beating Bayern just outshines the latter result for me. 

Falling behind to a Jamal Musiala strike in the 14th minute, Bochum looked set for another whitewashing in a flood-lit, rainy, Vonovia Ruhrstadion. Too often their heads dropped against the Bavarians, but on this occasion, they defied the norm. A Takuma Asano rocket restored parity in the 38th minute and just before the break Bochum led. Kevin Stöger’s pin-point corner met by the head of his namesake Schlotterbeck to rattle the net. The centre-back would ship an elbow to the face from Dayot Upamecano late in the second-half. Step forth Stöger who drilled the resulting spot kick to the bottom right of Manuel Neuer – a notorious penalty killer. With 6 key passes, 2 big chances created, and 70% of his duels won, the Austrian was undoubtedly on form that day.

HONOURABLE MENTIONS:

The aforementioned Keven Schlotterbeck deserves rightful praise for his efforts this campaign. The 27-year-old centre-half racked up 5 goals and 1 assist in 27 appearances which is no mean feat. His aerial threat always kept opposing defenders anticipating his every move in the box. Brazilian full-back Bernardo also made himself a fans’ favourite, albeit consistency slightly tailed off as the campaign wore on.

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