The Wolves were far from their best in Saturday’s 2-0 win. Yet thanks to some individual brilliance from key front men, Dieter Hecking’s side were able to walk away with three points, as DW's Stefan Bienkowski reports.
Wolfsburg stopped their downward trajectory in the Bundesliga on Saturday, largely thanks to key attacking players compensating for a team that is still far from its best. With the Champions League just around the corner, Dieter Hecking's side needed some kind of result to boost morale following a run of domestic form that had seen the Volkswagen side go seven Bundesliga games without a win and drop from top-four contenders to mid-table has-beens.
Following pressure from fans to turn their form around the Wolfsburg manager shook up his tactics to try something different and accommodate for injuries to key players Josuha Guilavogui and of course the club's top goalscorer Bas Dost. This saw Wolfsburg favoring a more adventurous 4-2-3-1 rather than their usual 4-1-4-1 formation. A tactical tweak from Hecking that ultimately proved the difference between another dismal performance at the Volkswagen Arena and a vital three points.
The alternative approach - which admittedly we have seen already this season (the recent draw with Cologne and the 6-0 win over Werder Bremen) - meant that Julian Draxler, Daniel Caligiuri and Vieirinha were able to play as committed forwards rather than central midfielders or wingers with defensive responsibilities.
The speed of Vieirinha was a clear bother for the visitors from the start as he exploited space on either flank that Ingolstadt's full-backs dare not venture out to. Coupled with the industry of Caligiuri and the intelligence of Draxler, it was clear that any fortune Wolfsburg were to get on the day would come from either of these three talents.
Attacking trio delivers
And so it proved just before the half-hour mark. Caliguiri found space on the left wing and swung in an early cross for an on-running Draxler. The German international managed to wrestle his way beyond the marker and get on the end of the cross. It was a goal made and delivered from Wolfsburg's free-flowing forward unit.
Throwing caution to the wind also brought with it a number of risks. Without an extra man in midfield, Luis Gustavo and Christian Träsch often struggled to keep possession when Ingolstadt's midfield trio closed them down with speed. Similarly, Naldo and Robin Knoche - two central defenders determined to play each ball out of defense - often did more harm than good when they found an opposing player rather than their own swarming front line.
Yet any fears Wolfsburg had of retribution from their guests were quickly dealt with when Knoche bundled home a second goal from a corner five minutes before half time. Following a Naldo header and Max Kruse shot the defender was allowed to pounce on the rebound when it fell to him at the back post.
With the win undoubtedly in the bag Wolfsburg resorted back to their “safety first” approach in the second half. Vieirinha was tasked with sitting deeper while Caliguiri did likewise on the opposing wing and before the home fans knew it Wolfsburg were back to their 4-1-4-1 system.
The lack of attacking pressure naturally encouraged Ingolstadt to push forward and almost brought them back into the game when Marvin Matip's darting header forced an excellent save from Wolfsburg keeper Koen Casteels just over twenty minutes from time.
Yet the hosts continued with their plans to shut up shop by bringing on Andre Schürrle (for Vieirinha) and Maxi Arnold (for Träsch) to sure up the midfield. It proved a tactical move that submitted possession to Ingolstadt and in turn brought about a nervous last 10 minutes for the home fans.
The recently promoted side struggled to take advantage of Wolfsburg's submission though, and on the backdrop of a needlessly nervous Volkswagen Arena the game drew to a close. At the final whistle, a relieved home support burst out in praise, but those cheers could have very easily been another chorus of boos for Hecking's side had his key front men not taken the intuitive.