Wolfsburg’s Wolves go starving in 2017
It was just two months ago now that VfL Wolfsburg barely escaped relegation from the Bundesliga. In late May the Wolves scored a 1-0 victory—going 2-0 on aggregate—in each of two legs of a home and away playoff with Eintracht Braunschweig to avoid being sent down. Braunschweig came third last time in the second division of Bundesliga.
The relegation playoff itself came just three months, nearly to the day, into the tenure of new Wolves’ manager, Andries Jonker. The Dutchman had returned to both Wolfsburg and the Bundesliga from a year away as academy director at Arsenal.
Jonker took over for Valérien Ismaël almost midway through the season. The former did not have any more success than his predecessor. The main turnaround for the club under the new coach was that they lost less in the second half of the season. Jonker won no more than had Ismaël and the goal differential wasn’t much different.
Feast for the beast(s)
Ismaël himself had taken over the previous October from Dieter Hecking. Two years ago, in 2014-15, Hecking had led Wolfsburg to possibly the club’s best year ever.
In 2015 Wolves under Hecking came second to Bayern in the league and then defeated Dortmund in the DFB-Pokal cup final. They even got a measure of revenge on Munich by thereafter winning the DFB Supercup over the Reds at Volkswagen Arena.
It was clear to everyone then that 2015-16 was going to be Wolfsburg’s year.
But then something happened…really three things happened. Kevin De Bruyne transferred to Manchester City. Real Madrid staged an amazing comeback in the return leg of the two clubs’ UCL quarterfinal. And, in one match at Bayern’s Allianz Arena, Robert Lewandowski scored a goal for each finger on his right hand (or his left hand, whichever you prefer).
Thus, in the wake of the firing of Hecking early in the 2016-17 season, it was clear to all concerned that Wolfsburg were doomed.
William—not Willian—and Brooks for the defense
Wolfsburg are looking forward to bouncing back this year. Towards that end they’ve acquired John Brooks from Hertha BSC and Brazil’s William during summer transfers.
Brooks is one of those “Germ-ericans” who plays internationally for the U.S. Men’s team. William (not “Willian”) has won Olympic gold for his country in his time with Brazil’s U-23’s. Both are defenders who can come forward and score.
But remember that Wolfsburg is already home to Mario Gómez of the German National Team. Gómez is a very able scoring threat. He scored the match winner at home against Braunschweig while his line mate, Vieirinha of Portugal, sealed the return leg and the aggregate win with an emphatic stunner (watch below).
Neither William nor Brooks looks to be a complete replacement for Julian Draxler. The latter transferred out midseason last year to PSG as the wheels came completely off for Wolfsburg.
But then neither Draxler nor Daniel Caligiuri—also lost at mid-year but to Schalke 04—had been that productive in terms of scoring.
Rekindling the spirit of the Fau-Vay
It remains to be seen if these moves have been enough to turn the steering wheel for Wolfsburg. It’s unlikely that they will suffice to roll back the calendar to the good times of the recent past.
The club like to refer to themselves as “wolves”. That’s no doubt a tribute to the nickname attached to Wolverhampton Wanderers of England. But it is also a call to the intimidating spirit of the wild animal.
Yet Wolfsburg is also the city built to build automobiles. It was founded to be the production home to Volkswagen. The football club was started as a way to keep the factory workers entertained.
If you’ve ever owned a VW (or been owned by one) you know that they sometimes seem to possess a wisdom about which we as drivers know little. They just keep rolling.
Fans of VfL Wolfsburg may find that surviving the new Bundesliga season will require less of the spirit of the wild and more that of their indomitable “fau-vay’s”.