Dances with Wolves – A look back on Wolfsburg’s Hinrunde

Three years ago to this day, a VFL Wolfsburg side coached by Felix Magath were languishing in the lower mid-table regions of the Bundesliga. From this lowly position, Magath would guide his charges to champagne and salad bowls, winning the Bundesliga in a blur of disciplined triumph that would make Horatio Alger hang up his pen and retire to a life of monasticism. Today, a VFL Wolfsburg side coached by Felix Magath presently languish in the lower mid-table regions of the Bundesliga. History repeats itself.

So far, Wolfsburg’s season has transpired to comprise of a beautiful five month bed-in with controversy. Much like in 2009, Felix Magath seems to have used Die Wölfe as a vessel to with which to flash a v-sign at the world, with limited success. Magath has, in his short tenure at the club from Lower Saxony, managed to fall out with each and every one of Wolfsburg’s most expensive purchases of 2010. Pushing out established internationals such as Arne Friedrich, Simon Kjaer, Diego, and the ageing club legend Grafite, a true Wolfsburger in every sense of the word, Magath shocked both of the Wolfsburg faithful by delivering a true moral ultimatum of Sandbrookian proportions, driving in the point that no one– no one, is bigger than the club. This gesture, despite its extremity (possibly second only to writing “No one is bigger than the club” in thirty foot eternal flame in the immediate environs of the Volkswagen Arena), seems to have had something of an effect as Wolfsburg are now three places higher in the table than they were at the end of last season. Though some may point out that this is not much of an effect in any regard, to a true man of means, any result, no matter how inconsequential and needlessly expensive it may be, is a result nonetheless.

the man, the myth, the legend
The man, the myth, the legend.

Wolfsburg kicked off the season with a 3-0 trouncing of Köln on Stale Solbakken’s debut on the Rhine, throwing all the billy goats under the bridge with a gruff victory sealed by a goal off a corner taken by Marcel Schäfer, and a brace from Patrick Helmes. The following game, Magath’s men would lose 1-0 against Bayern, before suffering a 4-1 reverse against Marco Reus’s ‘Gladbach the following week. Matters would disintegrate further with a 3-0 thrashing by a Freiburg side that would, to add some perspective, lose 7-0 to Bayern the next week. This would drop Wolfsburg to 15th, their lowest position of the Hinrunde.

Matters would reach their anticlimax for Wolfsburg in the thirteenth minute of week 5, when Raul converted a cheeky chip of an assist from Jefferson Farfan into a 1-0. Magath would be quick to arrest the situation, however, and Wolfsburg would go on to snatch a 2-1 win sealed in the 82nd minute by a remarkable deflection from Marcel Schäfer off of a Mandzukic free kick that was so sublimely ground from the mortar of time-space that any poet trying to perfectly convey its ineffably base splendour would be reduced to bitter tears of inadequacy. All good things must come to an end, and these immaculate 8 minutes against Schalke plus added extra time would soon be over, however, as Die Wölfe would lose 3-1 to Hoffenheim in week 6, before light redemption came in the form of a 1-0 victory over Kaiserslautern, followed by another 3-1 setback, this time against Leverkusen. The next week, Mario Mandzukic would work his 83rd minute magic once more against Nürnberg, handing all three points to Wolfsburg in yet another a 2-1 win.

Magath and Brazzo
"Friday night and the lights are low"

Magath’s side would hit a crescendo of sorts with a hard fought 1-1 draw against Thorsten Fink’s Amazing Hamburg Revolution, whose numerous and dedicated supersupporters were adamant in informing anyone who would listen that this match “wasn’t a real derby”. After the game, Hamburg coach Fink informed the press that he “didn’t want to win that game, anyway”, and he “didn’t care about Wolfsburg.”* This draw, pointless and inconsequential as it may have been, catapulted Wolfsburg to 11th in the table.

*Believe everything you read.

It was not to last, as Die Wölfe would lose 3-2 to Hertha Berlin before suffering a 5-1 reverse against Dortmund. Magath would once more arrest the slide, winning 4-1 (4-1!) against Hannover the next week. Wolfsburg’s season would be perfectly summed up the following week with a 2-0 defeat against Augsburg in the wake of this glorious triumph. They would draw with Mainz the next week (2-2), before going down 4-1 against Bremen in the following match. Redemption and 12th place going into the winter break was earned against Stuttgart in the final match of the Hinrunde with a 1-0 victory.

Tour of inspection
The dear leader perfoms his tour of inspection

Off the pitch, Wolfsburg have had similarly chaotic results, with Wolfsburg director Felix Magath gifting Wolfsburg coach Felix Magath a total of 7 players in 6 days at the time of writing, with no signs of this financial trend abating. Die Wölfe started off the transfer market by signing Czech international midfielder Randle McMurphy Petr Jiracek from Viktoria Plzen, followed up by a duo of highly rated young midfielders, namely the 21 year old Serbian international stalwart and Vojvodina captain Slobodan Medojevic, and Macedonian man of mystery Ferhan Hasani, also 21. Magath would next turn his attentions to PAOK’s Portuguese winger Vierinha, known for his skill on set-pieces. Undaunted, Magath would further snap up FC Sion’s prolific young striker Giovanni Sio as an appetizer for his next two signings, Brazilian centre back Felipe Lopes of Portugal’s Nacional, and Ivorian left winger Ibrahima Sissoko. At the time of writing, Czech international winger Vaclav Pilar was rumoured to be tying up a contract with the Wolves, by the time you read this, it may already have happened.

Going into the second half of the season, I think it can be safely assumed that Wolfsburg’s Rückrunde will be much like the first; controversial, bizarre, and, in terms of the actual football played, mediocre, all at once, sort of like a footballing version of Alles was zählt, or The Merchant of Venice, except that they eventually finish twelfth instead of the whole pint of blood debacle, and there’s a lot less blatant antisemitism. Yet come what may, I’m looking forward to it.

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