Andries Jonker Replaces Valérien Ismaël as Coach of VfL Wolfsburg

After VfL Wolfsburg fell to a 2-1 defeat to fellow northern strugglers SV Werder Bremen on Friday, it was clear that the days of Valérien Ismaël as coach of the Wolves were soon to be numbered.

On Sunday, the club officially announced that indeed, such was the case. Then on Monday, they already presented his successor: Andries Jonker.  Wolfsburg Sporting Director Olaf Rebbe commented on his club’s new coach

I am very happy to be presenting a first choice candidate here today in Andries Jonker. Andries knows just how things work here, he is familiar with the inner-workings of VfL and he knows a lot of the players – those are major plus-points. He has also proven at several top European clubs that he is an absolute football expert and has the exceptional ability to develop players further

The Dutchman is no stranger to the German Bundesliga, or indeed to Wolfsburg. In 2009, Bayern Munich hired him as Louis van Gaal’s assistant coach. After the latter’s firing less than two seasons later, Andries Jonker took over the head coaching job at the Bavarian giants on an interim basis.

The 54 year-old liberated Bayern from the tactical shackles that van Gaal had placed on it and took them to a third-place finish in the Bundesliga, which that year meant a Champions League qualification place.  Jonker took over the Bavarians coaching position in April, 2011 and, in his five matches leading the club, Bayern won four and drew one match, losing none,  After the season’s end, Jonker was assigned as coach of the Bayern reserves.

Later Jonker went to Wolfsburg, first as assistant coach to Felix Magath and then to interim coach Lorenz-Günther Köstner, as the German sports magazine “Kicker” reports.

They further state that Jonker’s points-per-game average is the highest of all coaches who coached more than one game in the Bundesliga (2.6 in five matches). Jonker comes to Wolfsburg from his post as head of Arsenal’s youth academy.  Arsenal legend Freddie Ljungberg also is leaving the Arsenal academy to be an assistant coach with the Wolves, and Jonker has also named Uwe Speidel, who worked alongside the new VfL head coach with Bayern Munich’s reserve side, as another assistant.

Jonker stated

I have had a wonderful three years at Arsenal. We have made significant progress and it has been great to be part of a club which puts such an emphasis on developing young players through its academy

I leave a great team of people who will continue to do a terrific job and I would like to thank everyone, including the board, chief executive Ivan Gazidis and Arsène Wenger for all the support

There are some top young players in the Arsenal academy. I look forward to seeing them progress their careers

The Dutchman’s mission for the rest of this season is clear: keep the Bundesliga champions of 2009 and runners-up of 2015 in the top division, where they have been every year since the 1997/98 season.

This term, Jonker is the third coach at Wolfsburg after Dieter Hecking and the above-mentioned Ismael, who only had 15 matches in charge of the Wolves.  After a career as a player in the Netherlands, Jonker began his coaching career with Dutch side FC Volendam in 1999, a club he had played for.  The Amsterdam native also coached at MVV Maastricht, beginning in 2004, and later held the reins at Willem II.  While coaching in the Netherlands, Jonker compiled a record of 58 wins, 50 draws and 98 losses, with his tenure at each Dutch club marked by a negative goal difference over his coaching tenure.  To be fair, though, only Willem II has ever won a top-division Dutch league title, and their last was 50 years before Jonker was appointed coach of the Tilburg club.

More from Jonker as he was in Wolfsburg to meet his players Monday

There are only a few clubs who boast the possibilities available at VfL. It’s a huge challenge for me.  This week, I will be doing all in my power to prepare the team ideally for the match in Mainz

It’s not about finding a playing system, but rather about notching up 40 points as quickly as possible. I have the task of getting the absolute maximum from the team

I have a history with a lot of the players and we shared a lot of moments together, others I don’t know at all. That’s not an issue at the moment though. Every player starts from scratch and must take the chance he has to get into the team on Saturday. And I really mean must

VfL should be far too good to go down, in terms of the quality of their squad. But they have earned only 22 points in 22 league matches this season, under two different coaches, despite a big spending spree during the winter transfer window.  In fact, in December Wolfsburg brass cancelled their scheduled trip to Orlando in early January to concentrate on all the changes with the club, sending the Wolves’ reserve team to compete in the Florida Cup instead.

Journalists and commentators all over the soccer world have repeated the refrain that a particular club is “too good” to go down. They’ve been wrong often — Jonker and his VfL players will  try to prove that they have the quality to remain in the Bundesliga next season.

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Denis Knezovic is a blogger, published author and lifelong Bundesliga fan. He covers the Beautiful Game on his blog at . His passion is for Bayern Munich, since he lived in Bavaria for eight years. He is, however, able to write on a multitude of soccer-related topics from around the world.

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