After the best part of three weeks, sporting director Klaus Allofs took the heavy hint from the players out on the pitch – and promoted Valerien Ismael from interim to head coach proper of VfL Wolfsburg.
“Following a thorough examination of the alternatives, we've concluded this is the best way for us to go,” said Allofs the day after the team had earned a much-needed 3-0 win at SC Freiburg. Various prominent names from Germany and further afield had been under consideration for the prestige post but the gritty determination of the Matchday 10 performance clearly helped tip the balance in Ismael's favour. It also confirmed a growing trend among Bundesliga clubs to fill the vacancy from within – André Schubert and Julian Nagelsmann being two notably successful examples from last season and Werder Bremen following suit more recently with Alexander Nouri.
Watch: Highlights of Wolfsburg's 3-0 win at Freiburg:
“I'm, delighted to have been given this opportunity to carry on the job we started with the team two-and-a-half weeks ago,” said ex-reserve team coach Ismael: “We've a lot of work ahead but I'm absolutely confident the team are a hundred percent on board for it and that we're going to be successful together.”
The 41-year-old former Bremen and Bayern defender could state that with conviction, given the way the players enveloped him in a celebratory cluster at Freiburg. “The pictures speak for themselves,” said striker Mario Gomez, who bagged a brace in the win: “We've one coach on our conscience already, we don't want to be making a habit of it. Hopefully, this is the start of a turnaround with him.”
Allofs naturally shares that hope, adding, “We stressed from the off that Valerien would be given his chance and he's made excellent use of it. Not just with the win in Freiburg, but with his overall approach.” Ismael, who succeeded Dieter Hecking in mid-October, said the players' post-match response was “a great gesture. There's a real feeling that things are starting to come together. But obviously, we need to keep delivering the goods.”
That win, and their progress to the last 16 of the DFB Cup, makes for a decent start after long weeks in a worrying downward spiral that saw them go eight league games without a victory. As an added bonus Germany international Gomez, back in the Bundesliga after three years in Italy and Turkey, also now seems to be settling productively into his new surroundings.
Next up for Wolfsburg is a home meeting with FC Schalke 04 – a stern test of their nascent revival, with the Royal Blues very much on the up themselves and nine games unbeaten across the board. Ismael's revitalised Wolfpack aim to spike that run this weekend, on their own prospective journey back to more familiar heights.