Winning the Bundesliga and DFB Pokal double in your first season at a club following up from a previous Cup triumph the previous year, would normally stand a coach in particularly good stead and lay the foundations for long-term success. When that club is Bayern Munich however, even this level of ‘success’ is often not enough.
This is just the situation Nico Kovac found himself in and after the glory of 2018-19 came the ignominy of being fired just weeks into the following season. Now having rebuilt his reputation during an 18-month spell with Monaco, where he transformed them from relegation candidates to title contenders, he is back in the Bundesliga with a point to prove at VfL Wolfsburg.
It is more than fair to say that die Wölfe underperformed last season finishing a huge disappointing 12th having qualified for the Champions League in the previous campaign. Losing trainer Oliver Glasner to Eintracht Frankfurt was a blow and the experiment with Mark van Bommel ended after just thirteen games. Florian Kohfeldt was then unable to improve the situation.
Both club and new trainer therefore have a point to prove going into next season.
“Nobody here was happy with finishing 12th in the table” Kovac explained at his unveiling. “We’ve played in the Champions League and Europa League in recent seasons and the club wants to do so again. That’s why we want to be more successful because titles are the best – even if they aren’t easy to win in the Bundesliga. But we still want to compete and be successful, which means being back in Europe.”
The quality of his squad will be of paramount importance with Wout Weghorst sold last season and midfield dynamo Xaver Schlager being snapped up by RB Leipzig. So far, the club have signed Croatian midfielder Bartol Franjic and Polish winger Jakub Kaminski.
“Quality is the key” Kovac explained. “The last few years have been difficult for every club, which is why you might need to try one or two things with younger players. That’s what we’re looking to achieve here too. Experienced players will help the team.
“This squad played in the Champions League and there haven’t been that many departures, but they underperformed last season. Twelfth place doesn’t reflect our quality and it’s up to us to dig it out again. To do so, everyone needs to take on responsibility so we can move VfL forward together.”
VfL Wolfsburg need to step things up and the appointment of Kovac looks a very astute move based on his achievements at Eintracht Frankfurt, Bayern, and Monaco.