VfL Wolfsburg’s squad should easily be sufficient to make it into the top third of the table. Are the players simply overrated or does the club not get the most out of this quality? Antonia is, at least in the social media world, among the best known fans of their favorite club and is one of the most competent experts when it comes to VfL. In the interview she tries to explain the situation.
Hello Antonia, this is the fourth time since December 2016 that you have given us an interview. In addition, for the fourth time we have to talk about an unpleasant situation for Wolfsburg. What has this time done to you personally as a fan?
Of course, this not only tugs at the nerves but also dulls them. This may not appear to be the case on Twitter, but: I’m clearly more indifferent to all of this than I was last year. First of all, because we’ve already had all of this. The anger, the disappointment, the change of coach, the hope, the disillusionment, etc… But I also have to say that this team is just not easy for me to take anymore. Last year there were Benaglio, Vieirinha, Gustavo, Rodriguez, all of whom were associated with better times. And of course Gomez, who was finally a guy with character again. They’re all gone now.
I went over all our interviews again. We talked about four coaches, two sporting directors and many transfers. 12 players came to VfL this season, which cost money to replace or rent. In addition, there were returnees and youth players. Transfermarkt.de counts 21 departures, including loans. Something is happening, but apparently not the right something. Can you explain that?
These numbers distort the whole thing considerably. The departures of Rodriguez, Gustavo and Vieirinha were clear-cut and overdue. But under an “upheaval”, which was so clearly defined before, I understand this as something different than the continuance of the coach, sporting director and (almost) all top performers. So yes, you can explain it. That was a soft upheaval.
“And nothing has changed since then”
Then came Martin Schmidt this season. He’s already the fourth coach we’re talking about, and you had at least some hopes for him. Still, to what extent can he be held responsible for this situation?
“Not at all” may be too extreme, but I really don’t blame him. He suffers from a catastrophic squad composition, incompetent leadership and a lack of motivation. Half the time Schmidt runs more on the sideline than the players on the pitch. Of course, I don’t agree with his contentment in interview statements after crappy games, but at least under Schmidt (unlike under Jonker and Ismael) one has already seen good performances. Like the last game against you guys.
You talk about the lack of willingness to run. At some point, is it simply a question of character that you need to ask the team?
This should have been asked a long time ago. For the second year in a row, they are casually heading for the descent and no one seems to be interested. You think: Wake up, that’s exactly what happened last year! But no, Daniel Didavi complains about a “demanding audience” in Wolfsburg after an outrageous performance, which was rightly acknowledged with whistles. I don’t want to single him out, I think many of the players see it the same way he does. And that’s the problem. No one helps the other, no one is willing to take one more step. Anyone who has ever seen a VfL match can see this. And this mentality doesn’t even change in exceptional situations. Let’s take HSV as an example: Last season, the last matchday. VfL only had to score points to escape the relegation. Hamburg needed a win. Wolfsburg quickly wins the lead. Who wins and thus secures their place in the league? Of course HSV. And even in the relegation match, where it really can’t get any more dramatic, VfL remains in the Bundesliga through a penalty kick and a dream goal from Vieirinha, not through battle or passion. And nothing has changed since then.
One always likes to talk about a squad that should actually have the quality for more. Apparently, however, no trainer is able to get the most out of this quality. Arnold, Malli, Didavi, Origi, Brooks etc, etc… these are all players who have already proven their skills. Is this simply due to insecurity and a lack of character, or is it due to the poor composition of the squad that you mentioned?
As I said, I find this squad composition absolutely horrible. It is a terrible mix of talents that are not yet 100% ready (Osimhen, Dimata, Uduokhai), mediocre Bundesliga players who have always been mediocre (Gerhardt, Mehmedi, Bruma) and of course the older players (Verhaegh, Kuba). You call this a good squad? Our only real striker who’s ready for the league is Origi and he’ll be gone in half a year. Is he supposed to be interested in whether the VfL stays in the Bundesliga? In the past game against Werder, Osimhen got the chance instead and you could see the difference between lethargy and the urge to prove yourself. Last year I went with the general, “this squad is far too good to be relegated”, this year it’s different. Arnold, Malli and Didavi have all three proven that they probably overperformed in their heyday and not coincidentally all of them together underperformed with us for a year.
This year, the entire Bundesliga is not particularly consistent. Is it all the more annoying for you that the VfL is too busy with its own internal problems and cannot use this situation for itself?
Yes and no. When I think about it, sure. But you don’t think about that when you’re 13th in the table. I also don’t think: “What a pity that VfL doesn’t take over the entire squad from FC Bayern Munich and thus becomes champions five times in a row.” The VfL is just as far away from that as they are from “taking advantage of the league’s weaknesses”.
Why is it that the gap between Bayern and the league has become so wide?
I don’t see any squad that could compete with Bayern to any degree. BVB sells all its best players and has a very different coach than Tuchel or Klopp. RB Leipzig and Hoffenheim are in the cursed 2nd year after lots of success (we know all about this) and Schalke and Leverkusen are Schalke and Leverkusen.
Possible solutions have often been discussed in the media. Play-offs, better distribution of television money and a European super league were just three of them. As a fan of the VfL Wolfsburg, is this something you have grappled with?
Heard about yes, properly grappled with no. Without wanting to affront anyone: In the relegation fight you have other problems than what kind of entertainment the Bundesliga is currently offering. I find the current relegation situation, with the relegation playoff games, fair. And that’s the only situation I have to deal with.
“I would find it very unfortunate if Schmidt had to leave so quickly”
We also went to Twitter and collected questions. One interesting question was, among other things, how to proceed with VW if the VfL is relegated. Is there any reason to worry about the Wolfsburgers?
No. The VfL is more closely connected to VW than any other club with its sponsor or owner. Unfortunately, I have to disappoint those who are happy about a possible complete separation and thus the downfall of the VfL. Certainly the budget would be reduced, but not as much as some people think right now.
In addition, there were repeated inquiries about Rebbe. What’s your opinion of him? Has he achieved anything during his term of office and does he have an approach?
I don’t believe in Olaf Rebbe at all. A transfer period in which Brooks, Origi and Uduokhai are brought in sounds better than it actually was. As I have already said Olaf Rebbe has dismissed every coach a few games after a big break, when he had the opportunity to look for a new one in peace. That really says it all about his competence. Personally I think the first screw that has to be turned is him.
Schmidt is already being questioned again. Could it be that he’s the next one to get fired after an interview with you?
I hope not, I’m afraid so. From supervisory board circles, one already hears that “after the games against Bayern and Mainz one would have a look at that”. (It’s nice that the supervisory board apparently doesn’t look at each other so much.) The coach is the one who suffers first from such a season. The really guilty ones, Rebbe and crew, cannot be dismissed in the middle of the season, or rather it would be of no use. I would find it very unfortunate if Schmidt had to leave so quickly.
We are now at the end of an interview in which you had to ask yourself many unpleasant questions, again. Do you see any scenario in which the VfL will one day be able to enter a match against FC Bayern with complete confidence? What must happen now?
You don’t have to be the runners-up and cup winners to be confident in a match against FC Bayern. All you need is a good portion of self-confidence, motivation and fighting spirit. All we need is another team.
Finally, I would like a tip from you for the Bundesliga match at the weekend.
An incredibly boring 0-4.
Many thanks to Antonia for her time! I agree with your tip. Bayern will need to keep Besiktas in the back of their head. Schmidt would be perfectly capable of providing his team with a game plan that is successful. But there is not much to be expected from the team. I also expect a clear 0:3 from FC Bayern.