Is Andries Jonker the Answer in Wolfsburg, such as Lucien Favre was with Borussia Monchengladbach and Julian Nagelsmann at Hoffenheim?
VfL Wolfsburg is now in the middle of Abstiegskampf, Valérien Ismaël was sacked after 15 matches and now the club puts its trust in Andries Jonker, but is the Dutchman the right choice now?
He sure is no Feuerwehrmann (firefighter, fireman) like most clubs would have hired in the same situation. While presenting the Andries Jonker as the new head coach the club has been very keen to mention that that focus will be on developing more new talents in the future. A praiseworthy approach, even if it is a little born out of necessity, because VW will significantly reduce its donations in the coming years.
No doubt that hiring the Dutchman as new head coach is an excellent choice. He already demonstrated at his stations as co-coach his expertise in working with young players at FC Bayern Munich and Arsenal London and several head coaches who worked with him, like Louis van Gaal, Dieter Hecking and Magath, think very highly from him. He impressively demonstrated his qualities as head of the Arsenal junior center, so one might wonder what he as a head coach could possibly accomplish if you just give him time to realize his ideas. But time is very rare in Wolfsburg now and it appears that Andries Jonker is the right man at the wrong time.
While the presentation of the new head coach the statements of sporting director Olaf Rebbe created the impression that the club might not have fully understood the real danger of the current situation and underestimates the difficulty of the task. If one listens to Rebbe an almost existential question arises: Why is he taking the precarious situation so lightly? The distance to the relegation playoff berth is only a 10 goal differential over Hamburg and the upcoming game in Leipzig is anything but a gimme after VfL split points with Mainz in Jonker’s debut.
Slipping down to rank 16 in the table is therefore not a utopian scenario. If that happens it is more than questionable that Jonker has sufficient time for developing players to react to the urgent situation and saving the club from the descent in his way. “It’s not about which system I prefer. It’s about getting the 40 points quickly,” said Jonker himself at his presentation. The 54-year-old seems to keep an eye on the essentials and the enormity of the challenge, but, nevertheless, the impression remains that one is unconsciously taking a big risk in Wolfsburg.
Jonker has no ‘fireman’ experience to call upon and hasn’t been called upon in that role like Magath, Huub Stevens and other veteran coaches have to grind out enough points down the stretch to keep their new club safe. Other clubs with similarly well-filled squads had to end up in the second league because the danger was underestimated – see 1.FC Nürnberg in 2008 after winning the German Cup in 2007. But there are also examples that prove that future-oriented decisions at the head coach’s position do not rule out an immediate upswing. The most recent examples are Nagelsmann and Favre. Both unleashed the potential of their clubs and formed good performing teams with chances to participate in the UEFA Champions League or the Euro League. The question is: will VfL Wolfsburg be the next club to experience survival, and a rise up the table next season?