The German Bundesliga starts on August 5, and heinnews is providing extensive coverage in the buildup to the 2011-12 season with a club preview each day. Today is 2009 Bundesliga champions Wolfsburg.
Just two seasons removed from a German championship, Wolfsburg fell to pieces and were in serious danger of relegation before 2009 title winning coach Felix Magath returned from Schalke to stave off the drop. Can Magath repeat the magic?
Magath has clearly cleaned house and made things how he wants them. Gone are defenders Sascha Riether and Fabian Johnson, midfielders Cicero and Karim Ziani, and forwards Grafite and Dieudonne Mbokani – Reither and Grafite were members of the 2009 championship squad.
All but gone is Brazilian playmaker Diego, who has been nothing but turmoil since not accepting being on the bench for a match late in last season’s relegation battle. Things haven’t been pretty since between Magath and Diego.
Magath has however kept much of the core together.
Swissman Diego Benaglio is a strong keeper who has a fine backline ahead of him in Marcel Schäfer, Simon Kjaer, Arne Friedrich and Peter Pekarik. And the midfield is solid with Josue, Makoto Hasebe and Ashkan Dejagah all coming back.
But Magath has given his midfield a serious boost in the signings of veteran Patrick Ochs, young talent Mateusz Klich and proven winner Hasan Salihamidzic. Whereas Diego has been a negative, “Brazzo” Salihamidzic has been nothing but a total positive in the build-up, even playing with a broken arm. Salihamidzic arrives from Juventus Turin four years removed from nine seasons with Bayern Munich which included six Bundesliga titles, four German Cups and one Champions League title.
Magath also has a fine attack in place despite the departure of Grafite to Al-Ahli Dubai. Patrick Helmes and Mario Mandzukic both have had strong pre-seasons as has newcomer Srdjan Lakic, the one acquisition that Magath did not call for as he joined Wolfsburg from Kaiserslautern during the last winter break. But the coach has been impressed with the Croatian’s goal-getting skills. And Wolfsburg has also promoted 19-year-old Kevin Scheidhauer from their youth ranks.
Magath is not fully satisfied with his roster as yet and is still looking for general and overall improvements, especially in the defensive midfield.
Despite all the struggles last season, Wolfsburg know they belong in the upper echelon of the league with a mastermind coach like Magath.
“We have said our goal is the international ranks. It will be difficult to achieve that but we have the quality to do so. We just all have to be on the same page, and it will work out,” said Ochs, who has clearly taken over a role as one of the leaders with his new team.