Big things are to be expected in Lower Saxony, in the not-too-distant future, as VfL Wolfsburg will be looking to bounce back from their disappointing campaign just a year after taking Germany by storm.
Manager Dieter Hecking will be entering his fifth season, and will be eager for die Wölfe to not sink back into the post-glory blues.
Mixed transfer business
As has been made known amongst all Bundesliga fans, Wolfsburg failed to hit the heights the season of last, and this was largely due to key players departing for pastures new.
Chief among which comes in the form of Belgian international Kevin de Bruyne, who, almost single-handedly, catapulted his side to a return of the UEFA Champions League, as well as the club’s first ever DFB-Pokal trophy — just 20 years after losing to Borussia Mönchengladbach in the final.
Yet again, the Wolves were turned into prey as another merciless raid took place; André Schürrle joined the long list of new arrivals at Borussia Dortmund, whereas Naldo joined Ruhr rivals FC Schalke 04 after a four-year stay. Perhaps a player who will not be as missed as much shall be Max Kruse; a forward, with a good record, who failed to live up to the hierarchy’s hopes and will be more remembered for embroiling himself in several off-the-pitch indiscretions.
However, one cannot criticise Wolfsburg too much without giving them many plaudits for their purchases. Despite being the proverbial picked apart carcass of the league, Dieter Hecking and sporting director Klaus Allofs managed to bring in an array of proven players and young talent.
The club appeared to learn from their previous mistakes and saw fit to replace the notable departures of Naldo, Schürrle and Kruse. Brought in were Jeffrey Bruma from Eredivisie champions PSV, Polish winger Jakub Blaszczykowski and highly-rated midfielder Yannick Gerhardt.
Perhaps the most under-appreciated arrival of them all, however, was the free signing of Daniel Didavi from VfB Stuttgart. Ironically, the 26-year-old’s last ever contribution for the Swabians was an expert free-kick in front of his future employers — something the home fans will no doubt be relishing.
Inconsistent pre-season form
It appeared the season of old had not died, just yet. A maelstrom of summer friendlies bore mixed results, and there was much left to be desired, performance-wise.
Big wins over inferior, lower-league sides were great for confidence, but fellow European outfits proved to be the undoing on many an occasion.
Familiar inconsistency came in the form of narrow losses to Celtic FC, SL Benfica and Sporting CP, as Hecking’s side continued to remain porous in defence, as well as toothless in attack.
A glimmer of solace comes in a draw against notoriously tricky side FC Basel and a one-goal win over Malmö FF.
Key to success and emcouragement
Although home form proved to be satisfactory, it was on the road which was the real nightmare for all the travelling fans.
In light of such contrasting form, questions have to be thrown up over the mentality of several players. Too often was the case where Hecking had to watch on as his side were outclassed, and often the victim of avoidable losses.
Whilst struggling on the domestic front, Wolfsburg looked a completely different side in Europe’s top club competition. Finishing top of the group and giving would-be-winners Real Madrid a real fright has proven the team is capable of pulling out big results.
A big boost comes in the form of talisman Julian Draxler staying put after recent weeks of upheaval, despite the sharks circling in for the prospect. Although Didavi can step in, it remains instrumental that Draxler be kept fit.
Ex-Bayern striker Mario Gómez will be tasked with banging the goals in, due to lack of good options up front. This, in particular, was a real worry, last season. In short, Bas Dost is not the player to fire Wolfsburg to glory.
While a good European run was impressive, the league campaign did suffer. Fast forward to this season, and no such competition can interfere. As such, the Saxonians face few distractions and with the likes of Mainz and Gladbach weakened, as well as Hertha in disarray, there are many reasons to look forward to a new season for Wolfsburg fans.