Wolfsburg - Midway through his third season at VfL Wolfsburg, is enjoying a veritable form explosion. The old-school Dutch centre-forward has scored nine goals since league action resumed after the winter break and while it has taken considerably longer than he anticipated, Dost never lost faith in his ability to make his mark in the Bundesliga.
“It looks like I was right about Bas,” head coach Dieter Hecking noted laconically after a brace from Dost had secured VfL Wolfsburg a hard-earned Matchday 22 victory over Hertha Berlin and another three points towards their increasingly probable return to the UEFA Champions League next season. With the Dutch striker having just upped his score count to eight competitive goals for the week, Hecking's comment inevitably elicited a few wry chuckles from those attending the post-match press conference at the Volkswagen Arena.
By contrast, there seems nothing inevitable about the recent upswing in form that has propelled Dost up to third place on the individual scoring chart with eleven goals - three behind Eintracht Frankfurt's Alex Meier, and five shy of his compatriot Arjen Robben at Bayern. And while the latter's tally of 16 goals from 17 starting appearances and one more as a sub is undoubtedly sensational, not least for an attacking midfielder, Dost's own return is heading for Bundesliga record territory in terms of sheer efficiency.
The game against Hertha was only his eleventh of the campaign, with his first run-out from the start coming as late as Matchday 15. Heading into Sunday's game at Werder Bremen, Dost is on an average of a goal every 66-and-a-bit minutes. Equally tellingly, he has dispatched nigh-on half of his total 24 attempts. Matching his coach for understatement in the wake of his latest league brace, the 25-year-old Deventer native admitted “it's a good time for me now.” He was also refreshingly blunt about the “long time here where I wasn't happy. I didn't play and if you're not playing, you're never happy.”
Fit and confident
Indeed. Prior to getting off the scoring mark as a sub in the 3-1 Matchday 14 win at Hannover 96, Dost had been restricted to a couple of brief cameos all season. Ivica Olic and Nicklas Bendnter, the latter freshly signed from Arsenal FC, were both evidently above him in the initial pecking order. Olic's mid-term move to Hamburger SV certainly lessened the competition for places up front but that in itself hardly explains Dost's almost overnight transformation from zero to hero.
For Klaus Allofs, it is not a matter of any great mystery. While conceding that the departure of the veteran Olic might have played “a certain role,” the sporting director offered the common-sense assessment that, “Bas is fit now, his confidence is up and he's part of a good team.” The Wolves no 12 has certainly had his share of injury problems to contend with since arriving from SC Heerenveen in the summer of 2012 as the 32-goal Eredivisie top scorer.
He made a promising start, nabbing a last-gasp winner at VfB Stuttgart on his league debut. That was the first of eight goals he scored in 28 games over the course of a solid rather than spectacular campaign, but the one that followed was distinctly underwhelming, with the Dutch U-21 international managing just 13 appearances and four goals. And while he himself “never stopped believing I could be successful in the Bundesliga,” others were by now voicing serious doubts as to whether the rangy, 'classic no 9' really had what it takes to make the grade at the top level in Germany.
“I was used to that already from my time at Heerenveen. At the start, people were saying 'he's not going to do anything,'” Dost revealed recently. There, as at Wolfsburg now, he went on to categorically demonstrate otherwise. On Matchday 21, he served up a stunning four-goal performance - added-time winner included - as Wolfsburg edged a 5-4 victory at Bayer 04 Leverkusen. The following Thursday, he netted both goals as the Wolves beat Sporting CP 2-0 in the first leg of their UEFA Europa League Round of 32 tie.
'Clicking into place'
Asked after that encounter to explain his colleague's sudden ability to score seemingly almost at will, defensive coordinator Naldo joked “He's got long legs,” before adding perhaps more germanely, “the whole team have learned to read Bas's penalty-box game.” Which, when he is on form, is simple but brutally effective - give him the ball and there is a fair chance he will put it in the back of the net, usually with his first touch. Kevin De Bruyne is one player tailor-made to provide that kind of service, new signing Andre Schürrle another.
“Bas is playing well and scoring well. It's just all clicking into place,” Belgian playmaker De Bruyne reckons. For Dost, getting to play at all was the biggest hurdle to overcome. Given that opportunity, “this was my time and I had to show it. And I'm satisfied that I'm showing it now.”