Wolfsburg - Despite the departures of Kevin De Bruyne and Ivan Perisic at the tail end of the summer transfer window, the future looks glaringly bright for VfL Wolfsburg.
With both players left out of the squad on Matchday 3, the Wolves racked up a demonstrative 3-0 win over FC Schalke 04 in a triumph of the collective over individual brilliance.
Back on track
"The win was extremely important," explained Wolfsburg head coach Dieter Hecking. "Even without Kevin [De Bruyne] and Ivan [Perisic], we are very capable of winning games. The lads did really well and underlined that here tonight."
Indeed, the sense of closure to a somewhat nagging transfer saga worked wonders for team morale. After two very un-Wolfsburg-like performances on Matchdays 1 and 2 - a narrow 2-1 victory over Eintracht Frankfurt and a fortuitous 1-1 draw away to 1. FC Köln - the 2014/15 Bundesliga runners-up appear to have rediscovered their trademark attacking swagger.
Integral to the Wolves' second win of the new campaign, 29-year-old winger Vieirinha put forth a compelling case to be reinstated on the right-hand side of midfield. Aside from having a big hand in the opening goal, the Portugal international instigated countless forays into Schalke territory that might not have been possible had he been deployed in defence as he was for much of last season. That position was reserved for nominal right-back Christian Träsch.
"I just want to say that Christian Träsch played brilliantly today," gushed the Bundesliga’s leading scorer in 2015, 16-goal man Bas Dost. "The last few months haven't been easy for him. He was in the same situation that I once was. Sometimes you play, sometimes you’re not in the squad, and then you play again. Christian was the man of the match for me. He was sublime."
Goals all over the pitch
With the right flank suitably covered, the Wolves will hope the opposite side of the pitch yields similar results. While it’s hard to imagine left-siders Ricardo Rodriguez, Daniel Caligiuri and Andre Schürrle chipping in with as many assists in a single season as De Bruyne managed last term (20), it's not like Wolfsburg are going to struggle for goals. The Schalke win alone proved that the Wolves are well-stocked on that front, with in-form target man Dost, left-back Rodriguez and centre-back Timm Klose all on the scoresheet at the Volkswagen Arena.
Ultimately, however, it could be Wolfsburg's ability to temper egos and bolster the collective that could define their campaign. Individually, the wolf pack are good, but collectively they could be great. It might just take the departures of attacking figureheads De Bruyne and Perisic, who between them had a direct say in 42 of Wolfsburg's 72 Bundesliga goals in 2014/15, for the reigning DFB Cup champions and Supercup 2015 winners to realise it.