Once upon a time, experts predicted the rise of VfL Wolfsburg and the demise of Borussia Dortmund. The 2015 Pokal final was supposed to symbolize this change. In the future, almost everyone was sure, VfL Wolfsburg would be Bayern München’s main opponent. The “Vollgas-Fußball” of Borussia Dortmund under Jürgen Klopp, so it seemed, had been solved by VfL.
There were reasons.
We find them during the busy transfer activities of the last few years. Here is a summary of the most important transfers that contributed to VfL predicted surpassing of BVB.
Previous Seasons Key Transfers into VfL
Ivan Perisic (now Inter), Bas Dost (from Heerenveen) and Naldo (from Bremen).
Kevin De Bruyne (Chelsea, now ManCity), Luiz Gustavo (Bayern), Timm Klose (Nürnberg, now Norwich City), Daniel Caligiuri (Freiburg). There also should be mentioned Junior Malanda, who arrived as a big talent from Waregem (Belgium), but died in a car accident a year ago).
André Schürrle (Chelsea), Josuha Guilavogui (Atletico), Sebastian Jung (Frankfurt), Aaron Hunt (Bremen), Niklas “Lord” Bendtner (Arsenal).
Julian Draxler (Schalke), Max Kruse (Gladbach), Dante (Bayern).
Take a short breath and then … wow. Even with the good-byes of De Bruyne and Perisic, VfL Wolfsburg’s roster is still stunning and seemed to pose the club as the new legit pursuer of FC Bayern München. Money does not hold Wolfsburg back – at least then. Of course it might now with the Volkswagen emission scandal. But VfL’s relationship to money is not the topic of the article.
Wolfsburg just does not do it away from home
But despite the gaudy roster, the so-called new 2nd power in German football has this season become the 7th power. What happened?
Wolfsburg has a huge problem with its away form.
This 2015/16 season, the Wolves have only won one single away game (in Darmstadt, 0:1), tallying an away string of results that stand at 3 draws and 5 Losses.
A top-team who wants to be part of the Champions League must be more balanced, picking up home and away points from week-to-week. What happens on the road for VfL? Well, the problem isn’t necessarily the defensive for Wolfsburg. With 16 goals conceded, they even can compete with Borussia Dortmund (16) and Borussia Mönchengladbach (16) as relatively solid away-defensive sides.
However, the real road problem for VfL is offensive, since the Wovles have only scored six goals. You can see the guest table here with VfL Wolfsburg last in the Bundesliga (!).
And this is strictly an away-problem for VfL. The performance data of the players on the offense are not that bad. Even Julian Draxler, who seems to be (from my point of view) an eternal talent, scored three goals and had five assists. His striker colleague Max Kruse scored seven goals and had seven assists. But they only score at home in the VW-Arena.
There is no hidden philosophy about how Wolfsburg loses ground to Dortmund, Berlin or Leverkusen. They simply cease to work on away pitches.
Schalke, Wolfsburg, and the return of Julian Draxler
On Saturday during matchday 20, VfL Wolfsburg face FC Schalke 04 in the Veltins-Arena. The first leg resulted in 3:0 win for Wolfsburg, but it is quite possible that this result will not happen again.
Schalke is longing for revenge and the young team of coach André Breitenreiter has the same aim as Wolfsburg: Champions League qualification. It is also the first visit of Julian Draxler “auf Schalke,” which is topic in the article of our colleague Navid Rahman.
There won’t be any welcome party at the Veltins.
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