Bas Dost Starring in Role as Bundesliga’s Comeback Kid

It was shortly after scoring his fourth, and the game’s decisive goal, in Wolfsburg’s 5-4 win over Bayer Leverkusen on Saturday that Bas Dost let all his emotions out. Having netted the injury time winner, Dost ran off at speed, arms wide apart, roaring with delight. Only a couple of months beforehand, he had seemed destined to depart Lower Saxony. How quickly matters can change in football.

The Dutchman’s fourth goal settled a pulsating, riveting and at times draining encounter between two of the Bundesliga’s European hopefuls, and provided the latest indication that the 25-year-old is beginning to find comfort in his surroundings at Wolfsburg. The remarkable haul against Leverkusen took the 6’5” tall forward to nine Bundesliga strikes for the campaign, with eight of those coming in the last five games. It goes without saying that since the league’s return from its Winter Break, Dost has been one of, if not, the star performer in Germany.

And yet, the country has not always been the happiest of abodes for the striker. Indeed up until two months ago it seemed that Dost may be on his way out of Wolfsburg, having failed to recapture the form that saw him become one of Europe’s hottest striking properties. It is easy to see why Die Wolfe were attracted to the Dutchman, having scouted him during a period that saw him net 32 times in the Eredivise during the 2011-2012 campaign. Dost’s 45 goals in 66 games for SC Heerenveen over two seasons saw a number of clubs seek his services, but Wolfsburg were able to beat Premier League sides Everton and West Ham, along with a whole host of other clubs, to Dost’s signature.

In his debut campaign in Germany, Dost took time to settle in, ending the season with 12 goals in 33 games, representing a relatively healthy return. However his second season was by all accounts a disaster. Dost made just 15 appearances and found the net five times in a year in which the forward was ravaged by both inconsistency and a serious ankle injury. This resulted in a man, seen by many as an heir to Edin Džeko, drop further and further down the pecking order. In his absence, The Wolves relied heavily upon Ivica Olić and when Nicklas Bendtner was signed, it seemed Dost’s time may be up.

Even on his return from injury he did not get much of a look in, with Wolfsburg Coach Dieter Hecking clearly not favouring him. The real turning point came at the very end of last year, and when Dost was given his chance, he duly took out, turning his fortunes round in a matter of minutes. To be precise, two minutes was all the Dutchman needed to make his point, coming off the bench and finding the net with one of his first touches in Wolfsburg’s 3-1 win over Hannover 96. From that point onwards, neither Dost nor Wolfsburg have looked back. The forward went from deadwood, likely to be sold in January, to the first choice option to lead the line for Die Wolfe.

Selling Olić, a man who had been first choice for some time, on the back of a few decent showings by Dost, represented a huge gamble. This has been recognised by both parties, with Dost believing that he is beginning to repay what Hecking himself described as the “huge amount of faith” shown in him by the management.

Looking at his statistics it is undeniably true that Bas Dost is a perennial slow starter, with Wolfsburg proving no exception. At every stage of his career the forward has required time to settle before turning in explosive and consistent performances, and his post Winter Break form this season has given some sort of indication as to how good Dost can be. While form and surroundings blighted him at other clubs, he has been burdened at Wolfsburg by injuries and up until very recently, a lack of faith, but his seven months of recuperation combined with the departure of Olić have really seen Dost enter a new phase of his Wolfsburg career.

A real penalty box poacher, Dost is starting to find his feet, with goals flowing as a result. Before his four goals against Leverkusen there was a brace against Bayern, and in doing so Dost became the first player in 102 games to score more than once in a game against the league leaders. He then scored both goals in Wolfsburg’s 2-0 Europa League win over Sporting Clube Thursday.  His 12 goals across all competitions this season have come in 16 games, a very impressive record. While he is very much at home in the penalty area, much like his Dutch and Bundesliga compatriot Klaas-Jan Huntelaar, Dost has also shown in the aforementioned games an ability to find the net from a variety of improbable angles and distances. His near post flick against Leverkusen and splendid strike against Bayern illustrated his ability to produce the spectacular, as well as the poacher’s efforts we are beginning to become accustomed to.

There is no denying that Dost is benefiting from both Wolfsburg’s attacking style, as well as the creative forces behind him. The Wolves have brought flamboyant flair to the Bundesliga this season and as a result are one of the most enjoyable German sides to watch. Meanwhile in Kevin De Bruyne, Dost has the perfect foil to his manner. Alongside Arjen Robben, the Belgian has been the league’s most impressive player, and his creativity is something Dost is really starting to profit from. In time André Schürrle, just acquired during winter break, will surely have a similar galvanising effect on the forward.

Yet, just as Dost is starting to find his feet, are there worries his role as the team’s first choice striker may come under threat some time soon? Wolfsburg have shown on several occasions recently their ability to flex financial muscle, and while for the time being they have not gone shopping for a centre forward, they may be tempted to in the summer regardless of whether Dost can maintain his current level.

Inevitably there will be questions as to whether Dost can sustain both his fitness and form, but if he can maintain his prolific nature, there seems no good reason as to why Dieter Hecking and company should go shopping for a striker come the summer transfer window. With the likes of De Bruyne and Schürrle alongside him, if Dost can stay focussed there is every possibility that he could continue to be one of the Bundesliga’s leading marksmen. Remaining fit and retaining the faith of Hecking is crucial, and if he can succeed in doing both it can be Dost rather than perhaps a more illustrious name, whose goals help launch a much more aggressive title pursuit next season. For the time being though, Bas Dost will be content in his role as the Bundesliga’s Comeback Kid.

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David is a rare-breed - an Englishman who loves everything to do with German football, both internationally and domestically. He is currently on a crusade to promote the game back home. You can follow David on Twitter via @DavidM33

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