We definitely have an early contender for ‘Most boring match of the year’ as Augsburg and Wolfsburg played out a 0-0 bore draw (in every sense of the word) on a late-summer’s night in Bavaria. The goal seemed close on very few occasions and Felix Magath’s side were not able to impose their superior quality on a well-organized Augsburg side that earned its first point of the season.
Lineups and tactics
Markus Weinzierl was forced to shuffle up his starting XI from last week’s 3-1 defeat at the hands of Schalke after injuries to South Korean Ja-Cheol Koo, Zimbabwean Knowledge Musona, and goalkeeper Simon Jentzsch, replacing them with Torsten Oehrl, Milan Petržela and Mohamed Amsif respectively without altering his 4-2-3-1 system. Canadian full back Marcel de Jong was also replaced by Matthias Ostrzolek to start tonight’s match.
Felix Magath has plenty to choose from in his squad and had no choice but to change some things after the embarrassing home defeat to Hannover last week, conceding 4 goals without reply. Surprisingly, the defense was unaltered but Josué dropped to the bench in favour of Thomas Kahlenberg, with fellow countryman Simon Kjær partnering him in midfield after taking Bas Dost’s place in the lineup, with Marcel Schäfer moving to the left wing and Ivica Olić as the lone man up front in the 4-2-3-1 system.
In total honesty, the less said about this match the better. Augsburg seemed to come out a bit stronger, although it was a flash in the pan. Within the first five minutes, Aristide Bancé had a shot that was deflected and dipped dangerously towards Benaglio’s goal, only to go over the bar and for a corner. Weinzierl’s men had another chance five minutes later as Torsten Oehrl headed the ball over the bar from a corner. However, Wolfsburg seemed to react and preferred playing on the counter, moving the ball quickly to the flanks of Schäfer and especially Vieirinha and trying to make something happen. Their first (and only) real attack of the half came on the 15-minute mark when Wolfsburg’s Portuguese right winger paced down the right side and pulled it back to Diego, who could only hit it first time into the hands of Amsif. After this, it was a case of misplaced passes and poorly taken set pieces. Augsburg seemed to aim for Bancé with long balls, which inevitably found a Wolfsburg head or Swiss hands, much to the frustration of the Burkina Faso international, and Wolfsburg replying by giving the ball away cheaply in the middle of the park. Both teams seemed to lack ideas in the final third and welcomed the half-time whistle, as did the 30,000 people at the SGL Arena.
The second half seemed to bring better things, as 2 minutes in, Vieirinha shot a low left-footed shot straight into Amsif’s hands, although this was as much action as we’d seen in half an hour of football. Wolfsburg’s players and manager were obviously unhappy with the result so far and judging by Magath’s body language before the interval, a few words must have been exchanged during the break, as die Wölfe seemed to have come out a bit brighter. Or so we thought.
Both teams were playing with their heads, with Augsburg scared of conceding a goal and Wolfsburg playing safely in order not to make mistakes, clearly with last week’s defeat against Hannover in mind, since a defeat here would really put the pressure on the team. Magath had to attack and brought on Bas Dost for Vieirinha, slightly surprising since all the ‘attacking’ football of Wolfsburg seemed to go through the former Porto man. A few minutes later, Dost seemed to have been an inspired substitution, as he latched onto an Ivica Olić cross (anonymous until then) and nodded it for the incoming Thomas Kahlenberg, who headed it on the run towards the far post. As the ball seemed to inevitably be going in, Amsif stretched and covered the ball’s trajectory, denying Wolfsburg’s best chance of the match so far. Since this might have spurred Magath’s men on, Weinzierl seemed to be content with a draw as his men weren’t seeing many attacking options, and substituted striker Bancé for midfielder Kevin Vogt, with on-loan man Giovanni Sio (from Wolfsburg precisely, who had come on just minutes before) being alongside Oehrl the only two attacking men. Magath pushed his fullbacks up further more and Fágner and Rodríguez kept trying to put crosses in, although none of them were met by any player in green and went to loss. Magath’s late changes made little impact and even referee Guido Winkmann ha enough, adding only a handful of seconds of stoppage time and promptly ending this poor match. The result will please Augsburg more than it will please Wolfsburg, although, if truth be told, none of them should draw many positives from it.
Felix Magath stated in the press before the match that he was expecting a reaction from his men after the Hannover defeat. However, it seemed like Wolfsburg played with fear —- fear of making mistakes and of conceding goals, a style that doesn’t allow for the showing of quality that the players undoubtedly have. Admittedly, Augsburg aren’t the most threatening side in the Bundesliga and it was obvious that anything less than 3 points would be a bad result for Wolfsburg today. Olić was anonymous throughout and Augsburg’s well-organized defence had little trouble containing the little Croatian. Bas Dost’s introduction made things a little bit more complicated but after the early scare after he came on, he too seemed to be under control. It seems that Patrick Helmes will be missed after all.
Augsburg recorded their first point of the season but still haven’t scored in their new stadium. However, the fact that this Wolfsburg side was very vulnerable coming into tonight’s match cannot be overlooked and while Weinzierl’s men can be happy with the result, after having showed a lot of fight in today’s match, you can’t but sense that, deep down, they will feel like it’s two points dropped rather than one gained. Bancé seemed to hold the ball well playing with his back to the goal, but Oehrl was always too far behind in order to get onto it. It’s quite clear that unless something drastic changes, the Bavarians will be struggling for goals (1 in 3 games, 2 of which at home) and a change or two might have to come for the Rückrunde if they want to avoid relegation.
Judging by today’s performance, Wolfsburg’s big names have to step it up if they don’t want to fall into that mid-table mediocrity that ‘forces’ Magath to go on a Winterpause spending spree and bring in 10 new players. More should be demanded from Olić and Diego, although it seems quite clear that Bas Dost has to start now that Helmes is on the sidelines, since the Dutchman’s introduction could have been instrumental for the end result, despite his mediocre performance, and he clearly causes a bit more concern to the opposing defenders.
Augsburg travel to Mainz next week in what could potentially be a six-pointer, and avoiding defeat there should be considered a point gained. Wolfsburg however receive another Aufsteiger, Greuther Fürth, in a match where anything less than 3 points for the Wolves will not be tolerated and could put the pressure on their manager more than ever before.
The conclusion from this match is that both teams need to improve if they want to achieve their season goals.
Man of the match:
This is definitely not an easy one as we were not spoilt for choice in the picking. Amsif made a cracking save from Kahlenberg, a save that probably earned his team a point, and that’s as close as any player came to a good performance tonight, so the nomination goes to him.