Despite their 2-0 victory against Ingolstadt this past Saturday, Wolfsburg needs to make many changes in their playing style, not only to eliminate Gent in the knock-out phase of the Champions League, but also finish fourth in the standings.
Since the first days of December, when Wolfsburg beat Manchester United 3-2 at home to knock the Red Devils out of Europe, things have been getting worse for the Wolves.
Although the German club managed to put an end on a seven-game win-less streak in Bundesliga, by beating Ingolstadt 2-0 at home last Saturday, they need to drastically enhance their overall performance if they want to maintain a late push for the Champions League qualification spots.
This win over Inglostadt was the team’s first victory in the league since November and they have suffered seven defeats so far (the same number as in the entire 2014-15 campaign). Consequently, they are currently eighth on the table, five points behind Hertha Berlin, which is fourth (35 to 30).
Moreover, they picked up just six out of a possible 24 points in their last eight league games and they have only won once away from home in the Bundesliga this season (1-0 victory at Darmstadt in October).
Why has the squad played so badly in the past three months?
The main reason is that the side has not managed to overcome the departure of both Kevin De Bruyne and Ivan Perisic, who were two of the club’s most important players last season (having been involved in 43 of Wolfsburg’s goals last term).
De Bruyne’s successor, Julian Draxler, hasn’t played to his potential so far, however, his different playing style (to the Belgian’s and the club’s ones) has made his mission even more difficult.
Against Schalke 10 days ago, Wolfsburg simply collapsed after conceding the first goal and ended up suffering from a painful 3-0 defeat.
With players like Andre Schurrle, Dante and Max Kruse struggling for consistency in their performances until now, Wolfsburg’s coach Dieter Hecking didn’t use the departures of De Bruyne and Perisic as an excuse, mentioning that “we’ve made this decision.”
What is obvious, though, is that nobody in the team was expecting such a downfall this season, as nobody seems to have a backup plan.
The Wolves’ technical director, Klaus Allofs, said, after the loss to Schalke, that “in football, you need to be patient”, with Hecking adding that “the key is to play more as a team and retain our faith. Otherwise, nothing will change.”
For his part, the team’s midfielder, Josuha Guilavogui, explained that it’s crucial for the club to start gaining points again, otherwise the team’s target to finish in the top-four will be gone for good.
With that being said, now the question is: Can the German team endure the pressure and claim the fourth place? Wolfsburg are heading to Belgium on Wednesday to face Gent in the first leg of the first Champions League knock-out round.
After the game against the Belgian league leaders, the Wolves will play against Hertha Berlin, leaders Bayern Munich, bottom side Hannover 96 and Borussia Monchengladbach, respectively, before the home leg against the Belgians on March 8.
All those matches are very crucial for the club and will determine not only their presence in Europe, but also their chances to climb to fourth place in the table.
Failure to earn one of the Champions League qualification spots would have a negative effect on the club, especially financially, and nobody at Wolfsburg wants that to happen…