Bundesliga expert Tom Rowland looks back at Wolfsburg - 'Deutscher Meister' of 2008/09 - in light of their current success.
Wolfsburg’s Prominent Form Harks Back to Their Bundesliga Triumph, says Tom Rowland.
The current form of Wolfsburg has been excellent and are enjoying one of their best seasons, resulting in them being the only real challengers to Bayern Munich in the Bundesliga. Along with some fine individual displays by Kevin De Bruyne and the scoring exploits of a rejuvenated Bas Dost, it is hard not to reminisce about their past glories.
The past is not that long ago, the 2008/09 season in fact. What a season it was.
Wolfsburg were not seen as title contenders and their squad was not full of strength and depth. But managed by the complex figure of Felix Magath, who was a Bundesliga winning coach from his Bayern Munich tenure, Wolfsburg had a first team that did contain talent.
At the back Diego Benaglio was in goal and had the Italian Andrea Barzagli in front of him in defence, while Brazilian Josué was the midfield enforcer. Their midfield was one of creative ingenuity with accomplished passers Makoto Hasebe and Christian Gentner, which was spearheaded by the technically gifted and deadly set piece specialist Zvjezdan Misimović. Bosnian Edin Džeko and Brazilian Grafite made up the strike partnership.
Halfway through the season they certainly looked average and were placed 9th in the Bundesliga, some nine points behind surprise leaders Hoffenheim, who were participating in their inaugural Bundesliga campaign.
Despite the ominous position and form, Wolfsburg exploded into life in the Rückrunde (second half of the season). After drawing the first match back in 2009 away to Köln, they marched onto a phenomenal ten match winning streak. It would be their eighth match within this streak that changed the complex of the season and set up one of the most unlikely Bundesliga champions.
Wolfsburg, who were now up to third in the league, hosted Bayern Munich who sat in second. This matchday 26 encounter would go down in Bundesliga history. After going in at half time one apiece, the ravenous Wolves thrashed Bayern 5-1 with two goals each for Džeko and Grafite, with the Brazilian scoring one of the most famous Bundesliga goals of all time – dubbed ‘goal of the century’.
The win saw Wolfsburg shoot to the top of the Bundesliga as leaders Hertha Berlin lost to Borussia Dortmund. Wolfsburg were galvanised and believed this could be their season, in the end they didn’t relinquish first place for the remainder of the season.
That is not to say it was not without a rollercoaster of emotions and opinions swaying each week as to who would ultimately claim the ‘salad bowl’.
With four matches left Wolfsburg were soundly beaten 4-1 by Stuttgart as Bayern drew level on points. They were neck and neck until the penultimate match of the season when Bayern dropped points away to Hoffenheim.
With a slim two point lead, Wolfsburg hosted Werder Bremen on the last matchday while Bayern played Stuttgart. This Bremen team had convincingly dispatched Wolfsburg 5-2 in the DFB Pokal earlier in the season and would eventually go onto to lift the Pokal.
It was all up for grabs. Yet Wolfsburg stormed to a 5-1 victory over Bremen who were both physically and mentally drained following their extra time defeat to Shakhtar Donetsk in the UEFA Cup days before. Bayern’s 2-1 win over Stuttgart was scant consolation.
Wolfsburg claimed their first Bundesliga title, they were the Deutscher Meister after finishing on 69 points, two ahead of Bayern in second.
In total Magath’s brilliantly fluid, attacking side scored 80 goals with Grafite notching 28 and Džeko hitting 26 while Misimović claimed an amazing 20 assists.
In truth it was a highly improbable and certainly not expected victory but Wolfsburg’s Rückrunde was astonishing. They won 14 of their 17 matches, including that outstanding ten match winning streak. All of this was built around a tremendous home form that saw the Volkswagen Arena turn into a fortress as they won 16 out of 17 matches on home soil, drawing the other 2-2 with Eintracht Frankfurt.
It was a truly surprising and remarkable season which goes down as one of the most memorable Bundesliga seasons after an extraordinary Wolfsburg side.
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