Wolfsburg have not been having a good time of it in 2016/17 and with the sacking of Valerien Ismael this week they are moving on to their third coach in a quickly spiralling season.
The arrival of new boss Andries Jonker will see yet another new approach by Wolfsburg after the short lived tenure of Dieter Hecking's replacement Ismael. Hecking, having taken the side from Lower Saxony to second place in the Bundesliga, a Pokal and Supercup win and a Champions League quarter final, was sacked for being unable to halt the slide to mid-table mediocrity. Losing Kevin de Bruyne to Manchester City and Ivan Perisic to Inter Milan meant that Wolfsburg were without their two talismen from their hugely successful trophy winning season and their replacements just weren't of the same calibre. In all honesty, I'm not even sure they bothered trying to replace Perisic, unless Julian Draxler was an attempt at filling both vacancies with one player. Who knows.
Either way, Hecking was arguably a victim of his own success. Despite his side sliding to 8th in the Bundesliga by the end of last season he still managed to mastermind a Champions League run to the quarter final where only a supremely strong (and eventually triumphant) Real Madrid side knocked them out. After a slow start to this season, mostly because Draxler had lost interest and Mario Gomez wasn't scoring, Hecking was released from his job. Despite a very average squad at his disposal and a none-too-shabby job of keeping them in mid-table, the man who had brought Wolfsburg a Pokal crown in the middle of Guardiola's dominance was left without a job (if only until Christmas).
As if to prove it wasn't really his fault, Hecking was picked up very quickly by another side in trouble: Borussia Mönchengladbach. Since he's taken over from Andre Schubert the Fohlenelf have gone from strength to strength and now have a great chance of making the semi-finals of the Pokal and the quarter finals of the Europa League after an incredible comeback against Fiorentina. The wolves, on the other hand, are sliding rapidly down the table.
Hecking clearly wasn't the problem in Wolfsburg; sadly for Ismael, neither was he. The quality of players at the manager's disposal is limited and incoming boss Jonker will have his work cut out to keep them up. With Hamburg and Werder Bremen improving quickly (ignore Hamburg's thrashing at Bayern, they're much stronger at home), and even Ingolstadt and Darmstadt showing signs of life, Wolfsburg are in the middle of a genuine relegation dogfight. This is hardly the place to cut your teeth as a manager for the first time; whilst Jonker has been in charge of the Arsenal academy and has been the assistant at Bayern Munich and Wolfsburg in the past, he has very little experience of managing a first team at this level.
It was unsurprising that Ismael got the sack, especially after a disappointing defeat such as the one suffered at home to fellow strugglers Bremen on Friday night. Ismael was trying new tactics and methods to turn his side's fortunes around but it never really seemed destined to work. Jonker will have to turn a very average squad into a well organised unit if he is going to reverse their terrible form and if they do end up in a relegation play-off they won't have the support of the country: in all likelihood it will be against local rivals Braunschweig or the second team from Berlin, Union. Union in particular will have the support of the neutrals, meaning Wolfsburg could be in for a long and lonely descent to the second division.