As is always the case in the Bundesliga. The race to finish in a European position is a close one and the 2019/20 season was no different. Just seven points separated Hoffenheim in sixth and Eintracht Frankfurt in ninth, with Wolfsburg occupying seventh, the final European spot and just one point ahead of Freiburg. The Wolves have suffered a torrid time of late under the tutelage of Valérien Ismaël, Andries Jonker and Martin Schmidt between October 2016 and February 2019 but the appointment of Bruno Labbadia steadied the ship before bosses appointed LASK head coach Oliver Glasner on 1 July 2019.
Under the Austrian, Wolfsburg have looked like a competing side. Glasner took Wolfsburg on a nine-game unbeaten run at the start of his tenure in the Bundesliga before a 3-0 defeat against Borussia Dortmund on matchday nine. With a preference to play a 3-4-3 in the early stages, it wasn’t until Glasner opted to play a back-four that they had some stability about them. Just four defeats in their last 15 games was key in getting into Europe, even more excpeptional considering they started matchday 20 in ninth. After being outside the European spots for 12 out of 13 weeks before their turn of form, Wolfsburg consistently held onto sixth place before dropping down to seventh on the final day.
Injuries certainly didn’t help them during the 2019/20 campaign and an overreliance on Wout Weghorst to score the goals is their weakness. With Maxence Lacroix arriving from Sochaux and Bartosz Bialek from Zaglebie Lubin for €5 million apiece, Wolfsburg have strengthened their playing squad with some talented youngsters whilst keeping hold of their core players. A second season under Glasner looks to be an exciting one.
Likely Starting XI
Wout Weghorst – Striker
The Dutchman’s arrival from AZ Alkmaar in 2018 for €10 million was a shrewd piece of business from the Wolfsburg hierarchy. Seventeen goals in his first season and 16 Bundesliga goals during the 2019/20 campaign, Weghorst has been the striker Wolfsburg have so desperately craved for. Standing at 1.97m, the Dutchman is a threat to opposing defenders in the air but whilst your typical target man, Weghorst offers great movement in and around the penalty area as well as having the ability of bringing others into play. His performances for the Wolves caught the eye of Premier League club Arsenal, who had shown an interest in signing the 28-year-old should Alexandre Lacazette have departed the London club. Stay fit, and Wolfsburg will be knocking on the door of European football once again.
Signing to watch
Maxence Lacroix – Defender
Wolfsburg have often been criticised for their business in the transfer market. Julian Draxler and André Schürrle both arrived at the Volkswagen Arena for an astronomical fee but for once, Wolfsburg have done rather well in their recruitment both last summer and this. Xaver Schlager, Kevin Mbabu and Marin Pongračić have all arrived at the Bundesliga club in the last 12 months whilst the signing of Maxence Lacroix from Sochaux showcases some excellent business this season when funds are limited.
“Maxence is another logical next step in bringing talented young and hungry players to Wolfsburg who can then develop to a higher level with us and take the next step in their careers,” said sporting director Marcel Schäfer. The Frenchman has all the makings of an excellent central-defender and had attracted the attention of top European clubs. Wolfsburg have done incredibly well to bring the France youth international to club and with the departures of Marcel Tisserand and Robin Knoche, it wouldn’t be surprising to see Lacroix starting for Wolfsburg in the very near future.
Well drilled in defence
Guiding LASK Linz to a second-placed finish behind RB Salzburg in the Austrian Bundesliga during the 2018/19 campaign, Wolfsburg moved quick to secure Oliver Glasner as their head coach for the 2019/20 Bundesliga campaign. And whilst the Austrian likes attacking football, Wolfsburg’s performances defensively have improved. Only Bayern Munich, Borussia Dortmund, Borussia Mönchengladbach, Bayer Leverkusen and RB Leipzig conceded less goals than Wolfsburg last season and with the return of Koen Casteels in goal after the Belgian missed a chunk of the Bundesliga season through injury, Wolfsburg look strong in defence.
An over-reliance on Wout Weghorst
An injury to Daniel Ginczek at the start of the 2019/20 Bundesliga campaign resulted in the German out of action until the end of November. With no other recognised striker, Wolfsburg relied on Dutchman Wout Weghorst for goals and whilst he finished their top scorer last season, there was an over-reliance on the 28-year-old to get the goals. Weghorst scored 16 of Wolfsburg’s 48 goals last season and considering Bayer Leverkusen and Borussia Mönchengladbach both scored more than 60 goals in the Bundesliga, the Wolves are lagging behind teams they should be competing against. Josip Brekalo and Renato Steffen don’t score nearly enough as they should but with the arrival of 18-year-old Bartosz Bialek from Zaglebie Lubin for €5 million, fans would hope it eases the burden on Weghorst, relieving some of the pressure.
Expect Wolfsburg to be up there challenging for a place in Europe once again. The shortened seasons means teams are playing a match every 4.5 days and so Wolfsburg must use their talented, young squad to their advantage. Even with the departures of Marcel Tisserand and Robin Knoche, Wolfsburg boast an impressive defence and whilst they could do with another addition in an attacking sense, their recruitment has in the last 12 months must be commended. If they can stay injury free, then expect them to challenge the likes of Hoffenheim and Hertha Berlin for a place in the Europa League come the end of the season.