When Wolfsburg won their first four games of the Bundesliga, not many would have imagined just a few months later that their head coach, Mark Van Bommel, would be sacked. However, after a run of eight games without victory, that’s exactly what happened to the former Dutch international. When Wolfsburg announced the appointment of former Werder Bremen boss, Florian Kohfeldt, it left many fans with raised eyebrows. Known to many as the guy who got relegated with Bremen, most believed Wolfsburg would be too big of a job for the rather inexperienced coach. However, when the Wolves left the BayArena with all three points on Saturday, the doubters were well and truly silenced.
In his debut, Kohfeldt made two changes from the Van Bommel team that lost 0-2 to Freiburg last time out. Kevin Mbabu and Paulo Otavio made way for Yannick Gerhardt and Maximilian Philipp as the new coach opted for a 3-4-2-1 formation. It was a tactical move that turned out to work wonders. Wolfsburg were aggressive from the outset with Lukas Nmecha, Philipp, and Gerhardt linking up well in the final third. This determination and spirit was matched on the sideline as Kohfledt barked orders from the edge of his technical area.
A few minutes into the second half and Wolfsburg had their first goal under Kohfeldt. Clever work down the left-hand-side by Dodi Lukebakio granted him the time to put in a cross which fell kindly for Nmecha who gladly tapped it home. It wasn’t the most elegant of goals but you take what you can get when on a poor run of form. The goal was celebrated in equal measures by those on the pitch as well as off it. With his hands clenched in the air, Kohfeldt looked both pleased and relieved. It was a crucial opening in a game where both teams were lacking in confidence. From then on, it only ever looked like there was going to be one winner.
Three minutes later and Wolfsburg doubled their lead. Again, the danger mounting on the left provided an opening for Nmecha who’s headed effort was saved before a second attempt was blocked. The third and final opportunity then presented itself to Maximilian Arnold who fired the ball into the roof of the net. As the old saying goes, if at first, you don’t succeed, try and try again. It was woeful defending once again by Bayer, who practically let Wolfsburg queue up to take shots at goal. Wolfsburg were of course more than happy to be the beneficiaries of some of the worst defending you’ll see in the Bundesliga right now. Perhaps some Bayer fans themselves now think that a change of coach may be needed?
It was fitting of Arnold to get the second as he had been quite vocal in the build-up to the game regarding the change of management. He had criticised the Wolfsburg management for their somewhat hasty decision to sack Van Bommel. However, he told Sky Germany reporters after the game that Kohfeldt “provided an important impetus.” He went on to specify that “He brought in the intensity against the ball that distinguished us last year.” Arnold ended his statement by applauding his new coach’s demands and that it had transferred to the whole team.
It looked like Kohfeldt was on his way to the perfect start as Wolfsburg head coach. However, deep into injury time, Bayer were awarded a penalty when Maxence Lacroix fouled his man and was subsequently sent off for his actions. In goal, Koen Casteels stayed big and produced a wonderful save to deny Lucas Alario. The sending off for Wolfsburg only slightly dampened what had been an excellent day for them and their travelling fans.
Whether Wolfsburg can recapture their form of last season, remains to be seen. It’s still early days in the Kohfedlt era and there’s plenty of work to be done. Make no mistake, a win in your opening match as head coach is always a fantastic start. However, their opponents on Saturday have looked like a shadow of their former selves ever since that 1-5 hammering at home by Bayern Munich. There are many more games to be played between now and the end of the season and like many things, time will judge this Wolfsburg team under Kohfeldt.
1 | Borussia Dortmund recorded their first clean sheet of the season in a 2-0 win against Cologne on Saturday. Steffen Baumgart’s energetic Billy Goats were the visitors at the Westfalenstadion and they made Borussia Dortmund work for their three points. Mark Uth gave Cologne the lead only for VAR to deem that the German had handled the ball in the build-up before Ondrej Duda saw his effort from the halfway line tipped around the post by Gregor Kobel. Against the run of play, Thorgan Hazard nodded Borussia Dortmund in the lead before Steffen Tigges netted his first Bundesliga goal in the second half, deputising for Erling Haaland who is expected to be out until December. Borussia Dortmund faced 18 shots on Saturday and head coach Marco Rose was full of praise for Cologne: “They were the better team.”
2 | Bayer Leverkusen suffered a third consecutive defeat at home and were on the receiving end of a chorus of boos at the full time whistle as they suffered a 2-0 loss against Wolfsburg. Max Arnold and Lukas Nmecha scored the two goals for Wolfsburg as Florian Kohfeldt won his first game in charge. But for Bayer Leverkusen, it’s perhaps a worrying sign falling off the pace this early. Head coach Gerardo Seoane believes his side have the pedigree to be challenging, “The team can do it, it has talent.” But winless in five games in all competitions, questions are starting to be asked amongst fans. In Florian Wirtz, Moussa Diaby, Patrik Schick & Co. Bayer Leverkusen certainly have the quality going forward but they struggle to keep clean sheets. If they lose to Hertha Berlin this weekend, there will be just two points separating the two teams and the fans are likely to get restless.
3 | Freiburg remain the only unbeaten team in the Bundesliga and they occupy third in the table, three points behind leaders Bayern Munich. They’ve picked up 13 points from a possible 15 with a 3-1 win against Greuther Furth on Saturday their latest endeavour – Nicolas Hofler and Vincenzo Grifo getting on the scoresheet after Furth defender Simon Asta put the ball in his own net to give Freiburg the lead. The Breisgau Brazilians have picked up seven points from nine at their new Europa-Park Stadion home with wins against Wolfsburg and Furth after drawing against RB Leipzig. What’s more impressive is that Freiburg sit third and have the fraction of a budget that the teams around them have.
4 | After suffering a 5-0 defeat to Borussia Monchengladbach in the DFB Pokal, Bayern Munich needed a response. And they did just that. Robert Lewandowski (2), Leroy Sane, Kingsley Coman and Thomas Muller were all on the scoresheet as they put five past Union Berlin in an impressive 5-2 win. Julian Nagelsmann remains absent after testing positive for Covid-19 but that is the response that he would have asked for via video conferencing. They face a difficult game against unbeaten Freiburg next weekend before they head into the international break.