VfL Wolfsburg came painfully close to a second Bundesliga title in Robinho Lazaró’s first year in Europe, only missing out by a point on the final day of the 2046/47 campaign. But Lazaró was excited to strengthen his young side in his second summer in charge.
His efforts in doing so were aided by a transfer budget of £81 million after the commercial summary saw the club’s bank balance boosted to £217 million. That was boosted to around £100 million by selling underperforming players like full-backs Johan Sondergaard and David Larrieu and winger Ronaldo Luiz.
He invested that money in more exciting youngsters like Arnaud Diomandé for £8.75 million from Metz, Nigerian/Brazilian midfielder Alhassan Olawoyin for £2 million from America Mineiro, centre-back Youssef Joly for £1.8 million from Auxerre, full-back Antonio Renard on a free from PSG, and midfielder Fernando Musarella for £5 million from affiliate club River Plate.
But the pick of the summer signings was right-back Uwe Gotze, who joined for £20 million rising to a potential £50 million from Hamburg.
The Wolfsburg squad now contains 15 players with possible 5-star potential and five more with up to 4.5-star potential. While the newly formed Wolfsburg II and Under 19s sides contain another 11 players with 5-star potential. So there’s plenty to get excited about at the club!
But the highest potential players are Darwin Dutra, centre-back Samuel Arnold, midfielder and new vice-captain aged 17 Laurenz Wolf, Joly, Musarella, Enrique Cafagna, goalkeeper Reza Baghlani, Diomandé, right-back Iker Gil, left-back Roman Petrík, centre-back Edson Calisto and attacking midfielder Anderson Robles.
Lazaró slightly tweaked his primary tactical approach to a 4-3-3 with both wide players as wingers. Although that’s all highly liable to change as Lazaró didn’t really trust the wide players to perform, so kept the narrow 4-3-1-2 in his back pocket.
The new tactic began with striker Albert Mockel scoring a new club record seven goals in a 10-1 away win in the German Cup, racking up 44 shots, 24 on target and 6.35 xG while the hosts obviously scored with their only shot and 0.02 xG!
A Tough Bundesliga Start
The new season began with a tough test, especially considering last season’s away form, as Wolfsburg travelled to Dortmund. And they lost 2-0 after Dortmund obviously scored with their first shot.
The same happened in their first home game against Frankfurt. But a Robles strike and an own goal hilariously put Wolfsburg 2-1 ahead having only had one shot! And Robles doubled his tally to wrap up a 3-1 win after the break. But he then got injured as a Mockel double earned a 2-2 draw at Stuttgart before getting battered at Bayern but only losing 1-0. So it seemed an all-too-familiar trend was continuing.
First-ever Champions League group
Lazaró’s first taste of continental football in Europe saw Wolfsburg given a tough Champions League group alongside Inter Milan, Man UFC and Red Bull Salzburg. They started very well indeed as a Mockel hat-trick inspired a 3-0 win at home to Inter in his and Lazaró’s first-ever Champions League game!
Next was a trip to Man UFC, who had Lazaró’s former winger Júlio David. Wolfsburg did pretty well, holding out until the 78th minute when UFC won a dubious penalty before strikers Mockel and Kevin Berrer both missed great chances. Classic Man UFC. That was followed up with a wild 7-3 win over Salzburg led by Mockel and Robles hat-tricks.
They also dominated the Austrians away 4-1 led by another excellent Mockel performance but were awful as they lost 2-0 at home to UFC then got absolutely mugged 2-1 at Inter. And that meant Wolfsburg were really unlucky to drop into the Europa League knockouts, where they’ll face Dynamo Kyiv. Mockel was the second top scorer in the competition with eight in six, only bettered by Madrid’s Hallvar Lund Hansen who scored 11 plus eight assists with a 9.27 average rating!
Picking up form
The only positive to the tough league start was things should get easier. That proved just about right as Wolfsburg picked up a 3-1 win over Hannover courtesy of centre-back Thomas Becke, Mockel and Diomandé. Then something truly shocking happened as Wolfsburg won an away match, 1-0 at Mainz thanks to Robles’ first-half goal. But Lazaró was concerned by the performances of Berrer, who’d gone from the best player in Bundesliga last season to averaging 6.57 from seven games.
That was followed by a 3-0 win over Werder Bremen, in which Dutra finally scored his first goal of the season, a draw at Freiburg and 1-0 win at home to Koln despite having 23 shots to five. Then something miraculous happened as they dominated Schalke 5-0 away led by a Mockel brace!
That form continued before another spell of games against teams at the top. They got a draw at fourth-place Gladbach, beat fifth-place Hertha 4-2 then smashed Leverkusen 5-0 led by a Mockel hat-trick in their final game of 2047.
That took Wolfsburg onto a 12-game unbeaten league streak and third position heading into a two-week winter break. Bayern and Dortmund had started the season on fire but finally dropped some points, which saw things looking really tight at the top again. Bayern led Dortmund by one point but the top four were separated by just three points with Gladbach a further three back! Wolfsburg have the joint-best attack with 35 goals and joint-best defence with just 11 conceded.
Mockel is the top scorer in the league with 12 goals in 15 games and has the second-best average rating of 7.51, which led the media to label him “Majestic Mockel.” The striker has been on fire this season, smashing 27 in 22 in all competitions, including seven in one cup game. While Bruno Bernardes has the most clean sheets in the league with nine.
Wolfsburg’s strong start to the season again saw clubs paying attention to their manager. Lazaró was offered interviews by Leipzig and Roma, but wasn’t ready to jump ship just yet.
Intriguingly, the 2047 Best 50 Players in the World featured six players Lazaró had managed during his career in Colombia right-back Leonel Gil (7th) at Chelsea, Júlio David (13th), former Palmeiras striker Sergio Sosa (17th) who now plays for Chelsea after spells at Dortmund and Real Madrid, Colombia midfielder Andrés Posada (35th) at Real Madrid, Colombia midfielder Juan Rubio (43rd) who’s still at Liverpool, and Brazilian midfielder Johnny (48th) who’s now at Atlético.
And the year concluded with exciting midfielder Anderson Robles winning the European Golden Boy. The Colombian struggled in his first season but has been brilliant so far in this campaign with eight goals and seven assists. However, he was beaten to the FIFA Best U21 Men’s Player by a striker that Lazaró had already snapped up but was currently with Cuiabá in Brazil. And trust us, you’ll want to see him when we introduce you to him next time!
Join us next time as Lazaró unveils new wonderkid striker Juarez and looks to take the fight to Germany’s big boys!
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