Wouldn’t it be nice if we had someone different winning the top European leagues this season? Over the past few years, France, Italy and Germany have been dominated by Paris St. Germain, Juventus and Bayern Munich respectively. It’s getting oh so predictable again.
There’s just a chance that the Bavarian monopoly in Germany might get challenged in 2015-16 by VFL Wolfsburg. Last season, Wolfsburg won the DFB Pokal and were runners-up in the Bundesliga. They’ve followed that up by winning the Super Cup against Bayern Munich, albeit on penalties. In 2014-15, they had the audacity to beat the champions twice, once in the Bundesliga and once in the DFB Pokal. They were 10 points behind Bayern, the lowest margin the champions have enjoyed since 2012 when Dortmund won by eight. Bayern’s title wins in 2013 and 2014 were by 25 and 19 points. The gap is shrinking!
Let’s examine the differenc e between Bayern and Wolfsburg last season. Both only lost five games, Wolfsburg were unbeaten at home, unlike Bayern who lost twice at the Allianz. But their away form was patchy. Bayern scored more and conceded less, but four of the 18 in Bayern’s “Goals Against” column came as Wolfsburg beat them 4-1 after the winter break. A series of frustrating draws effectively cost Wolfsburg a real stab at the title.
Wolfsburg’s Kevin De Bruyne has become one of the Bundesliga’s most coveted players after creating more goals (20) than anyone else in 2014-15. De Bruyne has also proved that there is life after Chelsea following a short career that never got off the ground at Stamford Bridge. He became one of Chelsea’s loan squad, going out to Werder Bremen and then returned to Germany with Wolfsburg in January 2014.
Wolfsburg may well lose De Bruyne – Manchester City are closing in again – but they have added to their squad this summer, signing Max Kruse from Borussia Moenchengladbach. Kruse scored 11 goals in 32 games last season and will provide some competition for Dutchman Bas Dost, who became an unexpected success story in 2014-15. Dost started the campaign as third choice striker, but ended it with 16 goals in 21 games. Some people are not totally convinced with Dost, however, and the player himself sometimes lacks confidence, but he did link-up well with De Bruyne. And there’s always Andre Schurrle, who was also prematurely rejected by Chelsea. He has doubts about his fitness at the moment and may miss the Bundesliga kick-off this coming weekend. Mercurial Dane Nicklas Bendtner is also enjoying life at the home of the VW.
The Wolves will have UEFA Champions League football to distract them this season, but they demonstrated last season they can operate on several fronts, reaching the last eight of the Europa League and winning the DFB Pokal. Much will depend on what happens if, and when, De Bruyne is lured away. If he goes, coach Dieter Hecking, who has extended his contract, will be looking to spend the vast fee – or parts of it – wisely to ensure the momentum building at the Volkswagen Arena is maintained in 2015-16. They are reluctant to say they will be “Bayern hunters” this season, but anyone who wants a change of scenery in German domestic football will be willing-on the Wolves.