After a slow start to the 2022/23 Bundesliga campaign, Niko Kovac's Wolfsburg are suddenly in top-six contention.
Story so far
There were plenty of bumps in the road as Kovac tried to make his mark on a Wolfsburg team that had finished 12th last season. The Wolves collected just two points from their first five Bundesliga matches, before breaking their duck away to Eintracht Frankfurt. They lost to then leaders Union Berlin the following week, but have since put together an eight-match unbeaten run in all competitions.
More impressive yet, Wolfsburg ended the year with four straight wins - accounting for Bochum, Mainz, Borussia Dortmund and Hoffenheim by an aggregate score of 11-1. In the space of two short months, Kovac's troupe have climbed from second bottom to seventh - only four points outside the UEFA Champions League places they occupied at the end of 2020/21 under Oliver Glasner.
Kovac - the only man to win a domestic double as both a player and coach (he did so with record champions Bayern Munich) - has also steered Wolfsburg into the DFB Cup last 16, where they'll have the chance to exact revenge on Union.
Key player: Maximilian Arnold
The definition of 'Captain Fantastic', Maximilian Arnold has been leading the Wolfsburg revival. The 26-year-old has started every game so far this season, producing three goals and two assists across wins over VfB Stuttgart, Bochum and Mainz, and in the 2-2 draw with Bayer Leverkusen. He's picked up a handful of bookings along the way, but that's par for the course for a player who's Wolfsburg to the bone.
Wolfsburg underlined their rock-solid form by beating title contenders Dortmund 2-0 in their penultimate fixture of 2022. Micky van de Ven and Lukas Nmecha goals bookended an action-packed game, while Koen Casteels put on a clinic between the posts as the Wolves extended their unbeaten home run to four Bundesliga matches.
Watch: Highlights of Wolfsburg's hard-earned win over Borussia Dortmund
One to watch: Felix Nmecha
The kid brother of Wolfsburg striker Lukas Nmecha, Felix's emergence as a first-team force has coincided with his team's upturn in fortunes. The 22-year-old attacking midfielder was handed starts in six of the Wolves' final seven league games of 2022, repaying the faith with a brace against Bochum and a further three assists, including one for Ridle Baku's match-winning goal away to Hoffenheim on Matchday 15.
View from the camp
"It was great to end the year with a win. Perhaps we'll be mixing it towards the top come the end of the season. Hopefully we've backed the right horse by returning to training in December." - Kovac
- Freiburg (h), 21 January
- Eintracht Frankfurt (h), 5 March
- Borussia Mönchengladbach (a), weekend beginning 8 April
- Bayer Leverkusen (h), weekend beginning 15 April
- Union Berlin (DFB Cup), 31 January
Watch: The Bundesliga is back!
All 2022/23 season reviews:
Augsburg | Bayer Leverkusen | Bayern Munich | Bochum | Borussia Dortmund | Borussia Mönchengladbach | Cologne | Eintracht Frankfurt | Freiburg | Hertha Berlin | Hoffenheim | Mainz | RB Leipzig | Schalke | Union Berlin | VfB Stuttgart | Werder Bremen
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