Eight games into the 2015/16 Bundesliga season and certain things remain fairly constant.
Bayern Munich lead the pack, Stuttgart find that promising performances do not always equate to points and Michael Frontzeck’s Hannover 96 average less than a point a match – he is the only manager with over 100 Bundesliga matches to achieve such ignominy.
But while Bayern embark on a virtual eight-month victory parade, other German clubs continue to jostle for position in important mini-leagues below them.
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One of those is the European battle, particularly the lucrative lure of the Champions League – a battle VFL Wolfsburg are losing at the moment.
Crippled by weight of expectation
For Dieter Hecking’s side, last season’s second-place was beyond most people’s expectations. To follow such a successful term while losing two highly influential midfielders is a weight too heavy to harbour.
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Wolfsburg’s recent decline has run parallel with the car emissions scandal involving club backers VW – a scandal that yet might have a significant impact on their future.
But in the medium term, Wolfsburg are battling with a squad low on confidence and bereft of star quality.
The rot started in Robert Lewandowski’s single-handed demolition at the Allianz Arena. For all Bayern’s superior quality, the way Wolfsburg surrendered did not reflect qualities of a side supposedly among Germany’s elite.
Such a sizeable victory against other clubs could even be classed as routine, but VFL are among the elite supposed to stand up to Bayern and test them; they did, after all, win 4-1 against the same side to kick off last year’s Rückrunde.
The result appeared to deflate Hecking’s side and followed with an uninspiring draw at home to Frontzeck’s Hannover before a 2-0 defeat at resurgent Borussia Mönchengladbach, a game in which the manager was sent to the stands and mocked by the home crowd.
Old and new stars still striving for consistency
While their new signings have not fully integrated into the side, existing members of last year’s squad are also partly to blame for the struggles.
Big money signing Julian Draxler has struggled to stamp his authority on the void left by Kevin de Bruyne and was benched for the Gladbach fixture.
Draxler’s inconsistency for Schalke was a concern before he left and while his departure unblocked the stem of talent flowing to their first team, his inconsistencies have transferred to the Volkswagen Arena.
Dante’s odd acquisition into what was a settled defence has yet to prove dividends while Max Kruse is goalless in a Wolfsburg shirt and has struggled to nail down a permanent position, often shadowing the enigmatic Bas Dost as a number ten.
However, Dost’s public falling out with Hecking is another issue yet to be resolved.
The striker was lambasted for his attitude, even after emerging from the bench to score two winning goals against Hertha Berlin.
According to ESPN, Hecking said of his striker: “The way he has been sauntering around here these past few days is egotism and we don't need anything like that here.”
Last year’s top scorer has since been consigned to the substitute’s bench and restricted to a cameo role, despite his return of five goals in eight appearances.
The problems mount for the Wolves, on and off the field, but they need to drag last year’s consistency if they are to make advances on a relatively lowly eighth position.