Hinrunde Reviews: VfL Wolfsburg

The 2017/18 Bundesliga season has reached the halfway stage, giving us here at the Bundesliga Fanatic the opportunity to take stock of each club’s progress so far. Here, we look at how VfL Wolfsburg fared in the Hinrunde.

The story so far

It was always going to be interesting to see how Wolfsburg responded following their reprieve against Eintracht Braunschweig in the relegation play-off. Andries Jonker had saved them from the unthinkable drop, but could he get them back to where the club’s Volkswagen backers expected them to be?

Well in short, no. The Dutchman was sacked just four games into the new season. An opening weekend loss to Borussia Dortmund was no disgrace even if their defensive display was, and they picked up a first win at home to Eintracht Frankfurt in their next match.

However drawing with newly promoted Hannover and then losing to fellow new boys Stuttgart spelt the end for Jonker and he was given the boot. Former Mainz boss Martin Schmidt came in and set a Bundesliga record by drawing his first seven matches. Yes Wolfsburg were on an unbeaten run, but they weren’t winning football matches either.

Against both Hoffenheim and Schalke they needed injury-time equalisers to help avoid defeat and snatch an unlikely point. Schmidt did then finally get his long-awaited first win on matchday 12 with a 3-1 home victory over Freiburg.

After losing to Augsburg the Wölfe notched up a second successive home win against Borussia Mönchengladbach, but before the end of the Hinrunde, they became the only side to lose in the league to Köln going down to a 1-0 defeat on matchday 17 at the Rhein-Energie Stadion.

With just three wins in the first half of the season, Wolfsburg have one of the worst records in the league (only Köln won fewer matches, Bremen also won three). At the same stage last season, they had won five and still went on to finish in the bottom three.

The DFB Pokal has been a positive with wins over Eintracht Norderstedt, Hannover and 1.FC Nürnberg taking them to the quarter-final stage.

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Stat central

P17 W3 D10 L4 F21 A21 Pt19 (12th)

  • Wolfsburg win only an average of 3.4 corners per game- the lowest of all 18 Bundesliga clubs.
  • By drawing his first seven games in charge, incoming Wolfsburg trainer Martin Schmidt set a Bundesliga record.
  • Of their 21 goals conceded, only one came from outside of the penalty area.

Top Performer: Felix Uduokhai

The loss of big summer signing John Anthony Brooks to long-term injury before the league campaign had even kicked-off was a big blow to Wolfsburg, but the way young defender Felix Uduokhai has settled in has more than made up for Brooks’ absence.

The 20-year-old signed from 1860 Munich as ‘one for the future’, but has quickly become ‘one for the present’ with his assured displays in the Hinrunde. He had a bit of a nightmare against Dortmund on matchday 1, but has improved consistently making 14 appearances and even popping up with an injury-time equaliser against Hoffenheim.

Former Borussia Dortmund scout Sven Mislintat, now at Arsenal, is said to have already recommended the youngster to the Premier League club as a replacement for the ageing Per Mertesacker and had him observed.

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The summer signings

Wolfsburg signed a whole raft of players in the summer to try and inject some much-needed freshness into a squad that had struggled the previous season, and it has been a mixed bag with regards their success.

Aside from his horrendous miss against RB Leipzig Divock Origi has made a fairly positive impact since his loan move from Liverpool. He’s the highest scoring striker with four goals and Wolfsburg are reportedly keen on making his move permanent. John Anthony Brooks cost the Wölfe a reported €20 million, but missed the first nine games with a thigh injury picked up in the DFB Pokal. Luckily, as mentioned, Felix Uduokhai has deputised well.

Fullbacks Marcel Tisserand and Paul Verhaegh have both appeared regularly, with Brazilian youngster William making six starts although he was terrible against Stuttgart on matchday 4 and was taken off at half-time.

Spanish midfielder Ignacio Camacho began brightly and was an ever-present for the first nine games before suffering an ankle injury in the DFB Pokal which ended his Hinrunde. Striker Landry Dimata has only made three start with seven sub appearances without making much of an impact, while Kaylen Hinds loan move from Arsenal hasn’t paid off with the English youngster only appearing in the opener against Dortmund.

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Hinrunde highlight

Highlights have been a little lacking at the Volkswagen Arena this season, but there was something to cheer on matchday 14 when they pulled off a 3-1 win over Borussia Mönchengladbach- the very same Borussia Mönchengladbach who had beaten Bayern Munich a week earlier.

An early 4th minute goal from Yunus Malli set them on the way and they did well to blunt any Gladbach attacks. Coen Casteels pulled off a fantastic save to deny Vincenzo Grifo’s free-kick before Daniel Didavi combined with Malli to add a second for the home side on 25 minutes.

The three points were wrapped up in the second half when Joshua Guilavogui fired in a rocket from 20+ meters to make it 3-0.

Hinrunde lowlight

Losing to Köln has to take the biscuit surely? When the Geißböcke looked like they were going to go through the entire Hinrunde without beating anybody, along come Wolfsburg with some Christmas charity.

Wolfsburg took about 70 minutes before they actually got into the game and the scale of their defeat probably should have been greater than the 1-0 it was. In the end Christian Clemens’ second half goal was enough to beat an under-par Wolfsburg (although Mario Gomez was denied at the death by Timo Horn).

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The forecast

Well, Wolfsburg have the same number of points as they did at this stage last season and we all know what happened then. They began the Rückrunde with four defeats in their first five games so will want to see a much more positive start this year.

Winning games has been the issue for the club this season and when you find yourself in the midst of a relegation fight, three points rather than one can really boost you up the table. Results against those teams in and around them in the bottom half will be key.

If Daniel Didavi and Yunus Malli can develop their growing understanding and if they can start scoring more goals (without Mario Gomez), Wolfsburg should avoid the nail-biting end they had to last season.

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Mathew Burt

A year spent living in Bremen got Mathew hooked on the Bundesliga with regular visits to the Weser Stadion getting in the way of his studies. Back in the UK now, he still keenly follows the Grün-Weißen and German football in general. Follow him on Twitter @matburt74.

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