By Colin StoneFollow @JfGpodcasts
The phrase ‘fallen giants’ is often bandied around these days, but it seems more apt with VfL Wolfsburg than any other side in the world.
Go back to May 2009. Wolfsburg, led by current boss Felix Magath, had just won their first-ever Bundesliga title in emphatic style, with strikers Grafite and Edin Dzeko finding the net a remarkable 54 times between them.
Who was the driving force behind the plethora of goals? Zvjezdan Misimovic. Alongside Brazilian maestro Josue, Japanese enforcer Makoto Hasebe and German trickster Christian Gentner, these four made up the core of Wolfsburg’s championship-winning team.
The defence – Riether, Barzagli, Madlung and Schafer – had held firm throughout the season, culminating in the Wolves conceding the third-least amount of goals in the league.
However, Magath’s side of 2012-13 is a far cry from his championship-winning team of just over three years ago.
Goalkeeper Diego Benaglio remains between the sticks, whilst defensive duo Marcel Schafer and Alexander Madlung still prop up the defence, but it’s the attacking potency of years gone by that is so evidently missing.
Misimovic, the creative genius now plying his trade with Dynamo Moscow, has been replaced by the lazy and horribly unpredictable Diego. A striker who can replicate the clinical finishing of Al-Ahli’s Grafite and Manchester City’s Edin Dzeko is yet to be discovered.
Up front, Wolfsburg currently have the ageing and injury-prone Ivica Olic, the untested Bas Dost and the inconsistent Srdan Lakic plugging away, but Magath, for some unknown reason, refuses to play the tried and tested Patrick Helmes despite the German’s excellent goal-to-game ratio.
Helmes could definitely have come in handy at the weekend.
Wolfsburg’s comprehensive 3-0 loss away to Schalke on Saturday piles yet more pressure on the Wolves coach, and also handed the former champions their fourth loss of the season.
Jefferson Farfan put the high-flying Royal Blues ahead after the half-hour mark, nodding in a free header at the back post. The Peruvian striker, whom Magath had rarely played during his tenure as Schalke boss, celebrated by running up to the Wolfsburg bench and apparently swearing at the 59-year-old.
Lewis Holtby should’ve doubled Schalke’s advantage prior to the half-time whistle, but it was Ibrahim Afellay who eventually grabbed his side’s second less than sixty seconds into the second period.
Roman Neustader was in the right place at the right time to smash in Schalke’s third goal just before the hour mark, and had Farfan not missed a glorious chance late on and Klaas-Jan Huntelaar’s effort not hit the post, the margin of victory could’ve been much greater.
As the full-time whistle blew, the knives were instantly out for the Wolves’ manager.
With seven games gone, Wolfsburg sit in 17th position on a measly 5 points and the chants of “Magath out!” reverberated around the Gelsenkirchen long after the 90 minutes had ended.
An incredible 21 players have already played for the first team this year and Magath’s revolving door of tactics and formations is seemingly no closer to stopping either.
The German’s draconian training methods have won him plaudits and enemies across the entire country (he has managed 7 out of the current 18 clubs in the top division), but perhaps it’s time for ‘The last Dictator’ to finally step out of the limelight.
Elsewhere in Germany, Borussia Monchengladbach went some way to getting their season back on track by handing Eintracht Frankfurt their first loss of the season in a 2-0 victory.
Goals from Juan Arango and Luuk De Jong sealed the win for the Foals, who were much improved following their 5-0 demolition away to Borussia Dortmund last weekend.
Frankfurt’s loss keeps them in second place, 5 points behind league leaders Bayern Munich.
The Bavarians remain the only unbeaten side in the league and sit on 21 points from a possible 21, having scored an impressive 21 goals in the process.
Gameweek 7 Results
Augsburg 3-1 Bremen
Bayern Munich 2-0 Hoffenheim
Freiburg 3-0 Nürnberg
Greuther Fürth 0-1 Hamburg
Schalke 3-0 Wolfsburg
Mainz 1-0 Fortuna Düsseldorf
Gladbach 2-0 Frankfurt
Hannover 1-1 Dortmund
Stuttgart 2-2 Bayer Leverkusen