The Wolves have had bad luck all around, all season. A process that was bound to come, says Antonia, whom we spoke to before the clash of the two teams.
Hello Antonia, first of all everybody needs to introduce themselves in this blog. So: who are you, and what connects you to VfL Wolfsburg?
I’m Antonia. Those who know me probably do that because of my Twitter account @antoniasxn. I also write for Wolfsburger Allgemeine Zeitung occasionally. VfL and I are connected by close geographical proximity of my home town, and a penchant for drama. No, seriously: I live only 20km away from Wolfsburg, and if you’re into football and a league title every year is not a requirement for your fandom, then Wolfsburg is the obvious choice.
It would probably be easiest to ask you what’s actually going well in Wolfsburg at the moment. How could the club get into this situation over such a short period of time?
On matchday 9, after the game against Bayer Leverkusen, a man behind me in the fan block said after the depressing 1-2: “If only everything here ran as smoothly as my nose.” I think that probably describes it quite well.
Unfortunately, it’s not the first time we’ve seen Wolfsburg go from hero to zero in such a short time. After winning the league in 2008/09, we were eighth in 09/10 and in the season after that, 10/11, we were fighting relegation and ended up as 15th. In 2015, we won the DFB Pokal, we were eighth in 2016, and here we are again, back in the relegation fight. History repeats itself.
It seems to be our “curse” to have one really successful season, lose lots of players, hang around the table’s midfield for a season, and then have a proper fall. Maybe that’s because we’re so desperate to become a “top club”. However, since few players will stay in Wolfsburg when other top clubs come knocking after a good season, as neither the lovely town or the great choice of club colours can tempt them, this club has massive potential for failure.
Has the executive team underestimated that?
Yes, Allofs (but also others in charge at the club) missed out on realising what I just talked about last year and to work with it, then waved it off with a “we’re fine, we’ve got money” air, and now we’re 15th with more problems than successes.
What else has he done wrong recently?
It would probably be faster if I listed all the things he did right. Since about mid-2015, that was: nothing.
The transfer window before the 2015/16 season became the epitome of him as a manager, and it’s his own fault. His statement that Kevin De Bruyne would stay at the club with a probability of 99.9% was highly embarrassing, and it describes the entire transfer period, as well. Selling his two best players (De Bruyne and Perisic) and then calling up Draxler and signing him within two days is amateur-like and doesn’t fit in with his top club aspirations.
Then he signed Dante, the centre-back who De Bruyne completely dominated in the game against Munich in the winter, and that made us sink into utter chaos. Going into the winter break with a 1-3 loss, ranked seventh, and then selling who I thought was our second best centre-back, Timm Klose, without getting a replacement, just caps it all.
The squad composition was going much better this summer, however.
On paper, the 2016 transfer period looks better, but the way we play and our position in the table disagrees with that. And the fact that a player like Naldo, who has VfL so close to his heart, and who still points out to this day that he would have liked to stay in Wolfsburg, moves to Schalke without telling Allofs first, says heaps about his reputation within the team.
The worst thing about this season have been his comments in interviews after games. And don’t even get me started about the fact that he made Ismael head coach after one(!) positive game and stopped the exhausting hunt for a coach before it had properly started.
But the playing style isn’t exactly his fault. How big is Dieter Hecking’s share in the recent failures?
A couple of weeks ago, I probably would have given Hecking about 80% of the blame. After his comments about having to find a philosophy of play, he lost most of his credit with me. However, the fact that we haven’t improved under the new coach at all does make me wonder. I don’t think Ismael is a great coach for tactics, of course, but I did at least expect those early euphoria-driven victories.
If the new coach can be evaluated already at all: Is he only a makeshift solution, and would you prefer somebody else?
Yes, he’s makeshift. It’s easy to realise that when you compare Allof’s aspirations (top club) to Ismael’s coaching career (which contains basically no successes). Unfortunately, I can’t see any difference to Dieter Hecking in the way we’re playing. The mental block I had hoped we could overcome with Ismael, is still the same. So yes, I do want another coach. Somebody with experience, solid knowledge, and a zest to take on this monster task of bringing this nightmare of a team back on track.
What needs to change in the club in the short, middle, and long term, to bring back more successful times?
I’m not sure that anything can be changed to make VfL more successful on short notice. In the long run, the club shouldn’t try to model themselves after Bayern Munich, but rather Bayer Leverkusen (I can’t believe I’m saying this…) or even Hoffenheim, at the moment. Success requires players who want to be here. Young players who still need to prove themselves, not old ones who want to earn good money towards the end of their career (Mario Gomez, Dante, …). On top of that, we need a manager who does a professional job – and that, by the way, is not to talk to the media. And we need a coach who manages to actually get to the team, both mentally and sportingly.
I hardly dare ask, but does this team have any particular strengths?
We’re so bad that the fans will fall asleep with boredom, making Munich’s home advantage obsolete. No, I can’t think of a particular strength we have that nobody else does.
How do you expect Wolfsburg to play against FC Bayern, and is there anything that gives you hope?
Strong and confident in the first five minutes, then with a realisation that they’re playing in Munich, a mental breakdown and an ultra-defensive style of play, which FC Bayern can easily play around. What would give me hope would be another Caligiuri goal in the first five minutes, and a game that ends after 45 minutes with a 0-1 scoreline.
Otherwise, Lewandowski will get subbed on and… well, let’s not talk about that. What will be the final score?
If you could pick one player to transfer from Bayern to the Wolves: who would it be, and why?
Robert Lewandowski, because he is one of the, if not the best striker in the world, and we need somebody who can pass a ball to a team-mate and score goals, too.