Dost and Olic key to Wolfsburg revival


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Trust me, it's not all glamour this football journalism lark. Now I know there will be grumblings out there, but just spare a thought for the likes of myself when you're sitting on the sofa, cosy and warm, sipping beer and watching the football with your feet up. That is especially true if you've tuned in to see a Champions League game in Wolfsburg, as Manchester United fans will have done in December 2009.

The memory of Michael Owen scoring a hat-trick that night may be foremost in their minds, but for me, the match stands out for winning - by quite some margin - the exclusive and admittedly little-known 'The coldest I have ever been at a football match' award. You try typing a report with frostbitten fingers. But for the lovely ladies handing out club badge-embroidered rugs at the door to the press stand, I may not even have made it here to recount this.

But before you ponder the joy of what might have been, think about what might well be again with Wolfsburg threatening to offer me a spine-chilling trip back to the Volkswagen Arena.

It is far from your habitual tourist destination, and all those without a taste for cars and the imposing, Dickensian VW factory - whose four brick chimneys are lit up at night, giving the place the air of an industrial Disneyland - should probably give it a miss. But fans from across Europe may well get the dubious privilege of sampling its delights if Dieter Hecking's men continue their form of recent months.

Yes, they were beaten - at home too - by neighbours Hannover last weekend, though with the visitors getting the kickstart of a new coach, there was always the chance of that happening. But the nine-game unbeaten run before Christmas, that transformed them from relegation candidates in 14th into European contenders, was more symptomatic of their true worth.

They may not have the explosive, devastating quality up front of the 2008-09 Bundesliga-winning team - I weep inconsolably when merely thinking of the beauty of a perfectly-weighted Zvjezdan Misimovic through ball for either Edin Dzeko or Grafite - but they also don't have the medicine ball-fuelled boom-and-bust of Felix Magath. Somewhat less charismatic, Dieter Hecking has finally got the team firing. Nine goals and 11 conceded in a mediocre first eight games; 20 scored and 11 conceded since.

The opposition net may bulge more frequently when Kevin De Bruyne, Diego and Maximilian Arnold get used to playing together. "There were already good signs," stated Diego after last weekend's 3-1 loss in which the trio featured as 'drei Zehner' - 'three number 10s' - behind Ivica Olic. "It's already worked really well in training, but naturally we need time to get used to each other," Arnold added.

Given the respective talent of the three, their understanding should soon blossom, all to the benefit of Olic, who remains as evergreen as the trim on his Wolfsburg strip.

The fear is that the team are a little over-reliant on Olic for goals - the Croatian international has eight of the club's Bundesliga markers - and injury to the former Bayern man would be disastrous, unless Bas Dost can find the shooting boots he brought with him from the Netherlands but seems to have lost in his garage.

If he does, or Olic stays fit, then I may just be feeling the icy finger of winter - and the unique chill provided by the club's Roxette-inspired fan anthem - in the Volkswagen Arena once again.

Ian Holyman - on Twitter @ian_holyman

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