Champions League participant Wolfsburg in relegation scrap
BERLIN (AP) — After failing to win any of its last nine Bundesliga games, Wolfsburg is banking on a victory against last-place Greuther Fürth on Sunday.
Anything less could spell the end for coach Florian Kohfeldt and leave Wolfsburg contemplating relegation in a season that started with Champions League soccer.
The fall has been dramatic for the Volkswagen-backed club.
Wolfsburg clinched fourth place and qualification for Europe’s premier competition last season under Austrian coach Oliver Glasner. It was the culmination of three years’ stellar work overseen by managing director Jörg Schmadtke and sporting director Marcel Schäfer.
But Glasner, who joined Wolfsburg from Austrian club LASK Linz in 2019, opted against leading Wolfsburg into the Champions League and instead joined Eintracht Frankfurt, which finished a place below. Glasner reportedly had a strained relationship with Schmadtke.
Wolfsburg shrugged off Glasner’s departure by spending 50 million euros ($56.5 million) to reinforce the squad under new coach Mark Van Bommel.
The former midfielder enjoyed a flying start with five wins across all competitions. However, Van Bommel made a major error in the first one, when he fielded six substitutes instead of the permitted five in a German Cup victory over Preußen Münster.
Wolfsburg was subsequently thrown out of the competition in favor of the fourth-tier team, and Van Bommel didn’t see any more wins. The Dutch coach was replaced by former Werder Bremen coach Kohfeldt in October.
Kohfeldt also started well, with two wins, before the current slump began. Wolfsburg’s Champions League campaign ended bottom of a group containing Lille, Sevilla and Salzburg. The team’s winless run has since stretched to 11 games across all competitions.
While Wolfsburg claimed just two points from its last nine games in the league — leaving it just two points above the relegation zone — previously hapless Fürth has been improving. Stefan Leitl’s team picked up nine points from its last six games, losing just one.
Wolfsburg reacted to its predicament with a flurry of activity in the final days of the winter transfer period, signing former Germany striker Max Kruse from Union Berlin, Danish forward Jonas Wind from FC Copenhagen, and American winger Kevin Paredes from Major League Soccer team D.C. United.
Top goal-scorer Wout Weghorst, Josuha Guilavogui, Admir Mehmedi and Daniel Ginczek all left.
“We’ve clearly demonstrated that the sporting management is ready to take action and not simply accept the situation without complaint,” said Kohfeldt, who knows Kruse from their time together at Bremen.
While Schmadtke said the club maintained trust in Kohfeldt, he acknowledged that Sunday’s game against visiting Fürth could be decisive.
“We believe the path is pointing in the right direction. But we have to have results. Our trust in the coach, the coaching staff and the team is not broken yet,” Schmadtke said shortly before the international break.
Schmadtke’s future is also in question with his contract up at the end of the season. The former goalkeeper said Wolfsburg’s troubles were a factor in his plans.
“The situation is stressful, also for me. It plays a role, but it’s not the all-important thing,” Schmadtke said.
More AP soccer: https://apnews.com/hub/soccer and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports
Ciarán Fahey on Twitter: https://twitter.com/cfaheyAP