No club in Europe has been hotter over the past three months than Wolfsburg. A talented offense in sizzling form has allowed the Wolves (Die Wölfe in German) to build a huge buffer around second place in the Bundesliga, as they lead third-place Borussia Monchengladbach by 10 points.
Wolfsburg still trail Bayern Munich by eight points at the top of the league, but they have done what they can to stay in the race as of late. They haven’t lost in 12 games, since a 2-0 loss to Everton in the Europa League on Nov. 27. In the ensuing three months, they’ve won nine and drawn three while scoring 29 goals.
That’s not even the scariest thing about this side. Wolfsburg’s competitors at the top of the Bundesliga should be terrified that the Wolfsburg might only be getting better.
In the first game after the Bundesliga’s winter break, Wolfsburg trounced the leaders 4-1. A draw with Eintracht the following week was their last game without the services of Andre Schürrle, their newest Chelsea castoff who has returned to the Bundesliga with a vengeance. In four games, he has two assists,
Schürrle’s addition turns a previously dangerous attack into a downright terrifying one, but he is by no means the focal point of Wolfsburg’s offense. Another signing from Chelsea who came in last winter, 23-year-old attacking midfielder Kevin De Bruyne, likely earns that distinction.
American fans probably know De Bruyne as the man who finally scored against Tim Howard in the USMNT’s World Cup loss to Belgium last summer. German fans know him as the man destroying everything in his path in the Bundesliga. Look at this recent form:
Woah. On the season, he has eight goals and 12 assists, and his average match rating of 8.02 on Whocored.com is second only to Arjen Robben (who is averaging an unbelievable 8.56 rating). He’s played in all 22 games so far and has been the hub of a lot of pretty attacking football.
Yet, he’s not the Wolfsburg player who has been in the best form since the end of the winter break.
How’s that for form? That line belongs to one Bas Dost, a 25-year-old Dutch striker who has missed half the Bundesliga season and still has 11 goals, 10 of which have come in the past six games. Dost isn’t the most gifted striker around, but he’s a clinical finisher who always seems to be in the right spot to make an impact.
This season’s overall form, and this recent run of dominance, signifies part of a large growth spurt at the club in the past decade. Wolfsburg isn’t a particularly old club, having been founded in a young Automobile-industry-driven city after the end of World War II. After a short spell in the top tier of the Bundesliga’s predecessor, Wolfsburg wandered the lower leagues until moving up to the Bundesliga in 1997.
Despite being expected to struggle, Wolfsburg finished in sixth that season. They remained in the Bundesliga, not making the Champions League and twice narrowly avoiding relegation before beginning another climb. That led to a shocking first-ever title in 2008-09, when they scored 80 goals in 34 games — 54 of those goals coming from the combination of Brazilian Grafite and Manchester City’s Edin Dzeko — under Felix Magath. But they couldn’t sustain the success, finishing third in their Champions League group and slipping back down to 15th before climbing up the table yet again over the past three seasons.
Now, the question with Wolfsburg surrounds whether what’s been built is sustainable. The side have young, exciting talent that seems like it wants a shot at the Champions League together. If the players mostly stick around next year and some nice new pieces are brought in, Wolfsburg could be one of Europe’s most talked about teams a year from now.
A deep Champions League run could provide a nice shot in the bank account for a team like Wolfsburg. This raises another question: could the team grow into a German power?
For the answer to that one, we’re going to have to hear the discussions in 20 years.