Preparation for the new season is nearly complete as VfL Wolfsburg prepare for Mark van Bommel’s first competitive match in charge when they face fourth division Prussia Münster in the DFB Pokal.
With a promising 2020/21 Bundesliga season behind them to build further momentum upon and a return to the UEFA Champions League, Die Wölfe will be hoping to put behind them the disappointment of losing manager Oliver Glasner.
Glasner, having led Wolfsburg to an impressive fourth-placed finish whilst also bringing the best out of Ridle Baku and Wout Weghorst, left for Frankfurt in late May – the side Wolfsburg pipped to the final UEFA Champions League spot.
“Eintracht Frankfurt is an exciting club and has made great development in the past years,” Glasner said upon his departure.
“The passion in the city and region is fantastic and internationally known, not least through great performances in the Europa League in recent years.”
Glasner’s departure will definitely be felt at the Volkswagen Arena. Having arrived back in 2019 from LASK he quickly set about bringing an expansive style to the team, whilst also remaining strong defensively.
Whilst his replacement Mark van Bommel brings much in personality and stature as a world-renowned former player his managerial is yet to take off.
Having started off as assistant manager at both Netherland U17s and then Saudi Arabia, he then moved on to his beloved PSV Eindhoven as manager of the U19s – before quickly being promoted to the first-team manager role.
After only 18-months at the helm Mark van Bommel was sacked as head coach of PSV Eindhoven after a run of two wins in eight games in the Dutch Eredivisie.
At that moment in time, PSV had just lost 3-1 to rivals Feyenoord, were fourth in the league and already 10 points behind leader Ajax.
The ex-Barcelona, AC Milan and FC Bayern player, who also lifted four league titles across two playing spells with PSV, had failed his one and only managerial task to date.
That failed to put off Wolfsburg this summer once Glasner’s Frankfurt intentions became known. The 44-year old quickly joined Die Wölfe on a two-year deal in early June.
“We have dealt intensively with Mark van Bommel and the personal talks have confirmed our impression that he fits perfectly with our philosophy,” said Wolfsburg chief Jörg Schmadtke.
“He is an internationally recognized football professional and knows what to expect in the Bundesliga. He also has enormous ambition, which has already distinguished him in his long playing career.
“Mark van Bommel is our desired solution and we are convinced that together with him and his coaching team we can continue VfL’s successful path.”
Van Bommel himself seemed enticed by the challenge awaiting him.
“I am very much looking forward to working at VfL Wolfsburg and am excited about my new environment, the people and the task that awaits me,” said Van Bommel.
“The ideas and perceptions of those responsible are identical to mine and I can identify very well with the path the club has taken.
“To be allowed to work as a coach in the Bundesliga, where I played for so long, is a great honor and challenge for me, which I will approach with great joy and commitment together with everyone involved.”
Whilst his stature and initial intentions will prove a lure to the Wolfsburg fans, results on the pitch will ultimately prove decisive. However, that’s not to say that van Bommel will do it all himself – as, arguably, the much stronger presence of managing director Jörg Schmadtke, with the help of sporting director Marcel Schäfer, will be there to help guide him.
When Schmadtke arrived in 2018, Wolfsburg had been on the end of two close flirtations with relegation to 2. Bundesliga. Nevertheless he set about his task in fine fashion, redefining the Wolfsburg mantra and ensuring they were best placed to challenge at the upper echelons of the Bundesliga.
This close season Sebastiaan Bornauw , Aster Vranckx, Lukas Nmecha and Maximilian Philip have all arrived for around €30million to further compliment an already talented squad spearheaded by the goals of Wout Weghorst.
However, question marks surround the future of influential Croatia winger Josip Brekalo. Marcel Schafer admitted last week that Brekalo had requested a transfer following interest from La Liga. His talents would be missed having scored seven and laid on three across 29 Bundesliga matches last season.
Another attracting interest is Ridle Baku. Talk remains around the links to FC Bayern following an impressive campaign last time around. Baku hasn’t done much to calm speculation either.
“I definitely have the confidence to take a bigger step at some point. But I don’t have to leave Wolfsburg now, I’m totally satisfied,” Baku said.
Whilst the in-tray at Wolfsburg certainly has more positives than negatives for Mark van Bommel, he’d be wise to not get complacent during his first few months in charge. Wolfsburg are on an upward trajectory, especially if they manage to keep the likes of Ridle Baku for the foreseeable future – however, that could change quickly.
An initial win against lower-league Prussia Münster will do much to calm any jitters, whilst the opening match to Bochum certainly offers an opportunity for a fine start in front of a decent crowd.
It is certain that Van Bommel the player would be relishing the challenge ahead this coming season. We’ll soon find out if the same can be said of Van Bommel the manager.
Main image sourced off VfL Wolfsburg Fans Facebook page.