There was understandable concern in VfL Wolfsburg circles that the goals might dry up following the departure of Kevin De Bruyne, but Max Kruse has appeased the doubters.
The 27-year-old forward has slotted in seamlessly at the Volkswagen Arena following his summer transfer from Borussia Mönchengladbach, scoring seven goals and registering as many assists in 16 appearances in all competitions in 2015/16.
"Every player needs time to get used to a new team," explained Wolfsburg head coach Dieter Hecking. "It’s completely normal and it was the case with Bas [Dost] and Kevin [De Bruyne]. Obviously they’re different players, but Max [Kruse] is just as important a player as Kevin was. Max sees a lot of the ball because the others know how reliable he is."
Kruse underlined his all-round value to the Wolves’ cause with a brace and assist in Saturday’s 6-0 rout of SV Werder Bremen. Wolfsburg have lost all three games which the 14-time Germany international has been forced to sit out through injury, but have won all four in which he has found the net.
"Max Kruse has confirmed what we saw from him when he first stepped onto the training pitch," said Wolfsburg sporting director Klaus Allofs. "He’s an intelligent and versatile player. He’s a goal threat, plays with finesse and works hard defensively. We’re more flexible now."
While the Wolfsburg hierarchy also admitted to taking the players to task following what Hecking had labelled "two emotionless performances" in defeat to PSV Eindhoven and 1. FSV Mainz 05 prior to the international break, they took great pleasure in the response shown against Bremen at the weekend.
"We cracked the whip at exactly the right time," Hecking revealed following Saturday's six-star triumph. "I think it’s great that the players also got together of their own accord [in having a meeting] without the management. It was the right call to make."
Deflecting attention away from his individual brilliance, meanwhile, Kruse succinctly concluded, "we were solid". He would never admit it, but his timely return was the clear catalyst for Wolfsburg’s most accomplished team display of the campaign.