Cologne - Broach the subject of magic triangles with any diehard Bundesliga fan and they’ll more than likely pull former VfB Stuttgart trio Fredi Bobic, Giovane Elber and Krassimir Balakov out of the archive - unless, that is, you’re talking to a member of the VfL Wolfsburg clan.
The Wolves’ one and only title triumph in 2008/09 was built on the 61 goals and 41 assists of Zvjezdan Misimovic, Grafite and Edin Dzeko, whose telepathic understanding was, until this past weekend, considered the ne plus ultra of prolific front threes.
On Matchday 20, Wolfsburg welcomed TSG 1899 Hoffenheim to the Volkswagen Arena, the scene of their demonstrative 4-1 win over league leaders FC Bayern München in the opening fixture of the Rückrunde. Despite being held to a 1-1 draw away to Eintracht Frankfurt four days later, the Auto City club’s confidence levels hadn’t suffered - not least following the marquee winter signing of Andre Schürrle.
Unsurprisingly, Wolfsburg’s World Cup-winning recruit went straight into the starting line-up for the visit of TSG, alongside creator-in-chief Kevin De Bruyne and born-again striker Bas Dost. Teething problems and perhaps even a clash of egos wouldn’t exactly have been out of place, but it quickly became abundantly clear that VfL sporting director Klaus Allofs had once again struck transfer gold.
'Only going to get better'
Operating on the left-hand side, Schürrle set the tone with a clever assist for Dost’s fifth league strike of the campaign just three minutes in. De Bruyne then made it two when his newfound attacking sidekick rifled against the crossbar, before completing his brace midway through the second half to wrap up a resounding 3-0 success. Wowed beyond all expectation, the wolf pack had just witnessed the birth of a freshly minted magisches Dreieck (magic triangle).
“To come in and play like that after such a short period of time, you have to say hats off to him,” enthused Wolfsburg goalkeeper Diego Benaglio at the end of Saturday’s Schürrle-inspired win. “It’s only going to get better with each passing game, but we have to keep focused and treat every game as a blank canvas.”
Shades of Dortmund
Benaglio’s cautious words are far from misplaced, but few could deny that these are very exciting times indeed for the 2008/09 champions. The Wolves have never had so many points on the board after 20 games (41) and while they still trail Bayern by eight at the summit, there’s something very Borussia Dortmund circa 2010 about their blossoming game. BVB’s back-to-back championship winners had Robert Lewandowski, Shinji Kagawa and Mario Götze; VfL have Dost, De Bruyne and Schürrle.
“To form a lethal front three will definitely take a while longer,” acknowledged Wolfsburg’s latest big-name recruit, eyeing up the coming months with great relish. “It can all improve even more when we get to know each other better and when the lads get to know the runs I make and I know more about the runs that they make. There’s definitely more to come, let's just see what happens over time […] We can beat anyone.”