Flashback 1: Last season, winter break, 2010. Points earned 10 from 17 games. No team has ever managed to stay up in the Bundesliga following such a poor start to a season.

Flashback 2: February, 2011. Coach Michael Frontzeck gets sacked after his ai???teamai??i?? could only muster a paltry 16 points from the first 22 league games.

Flashback 3: End of season 2010-2011. The team forced a relegation play-off out of nowhere, after finishing 16th in the league.

Flashback 4: May, 2011. The team managed to write history by earning their right to play in the Bundesliga in season 2011-2012 despite the worst start possible.

Present Day: Winter break, 2011. The team is only 4 points off from the eternal pace-setters of Bundesliga, Bayern Munich and only a point adrift from 2nd placed Borussia Dortmund and 3rd placed Schalke.

This is the story of the Phoenix of Bundesliga, the solstice of Borussia MAi??nchengladbach.

The cinderella story of the Foals

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Gladbach was founded in 1900. Only 7 decades later did they manage to earn recognition from all over the world. The presence of players like Berti Vogts and GA?nter Netzer gave the team an indomitable aura. During the 70s, the Foals won five Bundesliga titles including three back to back titles as well as a German Cup. Their presence in Europe could not be ignored as the Foals roared in with two UEFA Cup titles and an Intercontinental Cup. They even reached the finals of a European Cup in 1977. However, the team went from an embarrassment to another as they slipped into an abyss in a decadeai??i??s time. Victory in the German Cup in 1995 could not help their plight as the Foals could only be seen ai???Yo-Yoai??i??-ing between Bundesliga and Bundesliga 2 for the next decade, till Frontzeckai??i??s dismissal.

The wheel of fortune started to take a turn towards optimism just before the sacking of the then coach Frontzeck. Realizing that defence is the most vulnerable area, the management acted wisely and brought in HA?vard Nordtveit and Martin Stranzl to strengthen the rearguard. For a team hovering around the bottom of the league, scoring goals was as important as not conceding one. And in came veteran forward Mike Hanke. And along came the Swiss magician Lucien Favre, the Super Brain, the man who led FC Zurich to back to back league titles in 2006 and 2007 as well as led Hertha Berlin to their best ever Bundesliga finish(4th spot) in the last decade.

Ever since the appointment of Favre, the Foals looked a different team on the field, the players were eager to give it all for the team and were united to hold on to their Bundesliga status by the skin of their teeth. Apart from organizing the defensive strategy intelligently, Favre made use of his resources to perfection. He replaced the eccentric goalie Logan Bailley with the U-19 star Marc-AndrAi?? ter Stegen, a move which later repaid in manifolds. Despite playing in a conservative 4-2-3-1 strategy, Favre managed to introduce dynamism in it, all thanks to presence of the Foalsai??i?? miracle boy, Marco Reus. Ai??Favre made full use of Reusai??i?? capability to play as a winger, a playmaker as well as a forward and in turn instructed him to swap position with Hanke in succession to keep the oppositions guessing. The result was for all to see. The relegation candidates amassed 20 points from the remaining 14 games, which also included three victories from their last four league games where victories came against the likes of Dortmund and Hannover.

This season Favreai??i??s dynamic 4-2-3-1 juggernaut has been operating in full throttle, causing problems to all the teams. None of the teams were able to decipher the quick positional switches of Gladbachai??i??s front four. The rise of Patrick Herrmann has only added to the ammunitions of Favreai??i??s men. The front four of Reus, Arango, Hanke and Herrmann keep changing their positions. At times they give the 4-2-3-1 an advanced 4-2-1-3 look depending on the situation. The wide players (Herrmann/Arango/Reus) swap positions regularly and the central attacking pivot (Reus/Arango/Hanke) keeps drifting in and out to keep opponents guessing if they are going to orchestrate their game from the centre or down the flanks. Reus, Arango and Hanke are mostly played in a central role and whenever Reus launches himself in the final third, with Herrmann and Arango flanking him on either sides, Hanke drops down to aid the midfield in case of a counter. Similarly, Reus at times drifts towards the midfield to fetch the ball from deep positions when subjected to constant pressure from the opponents. At such times, Hanke moves forward to utilize the space left by Reus in order to keep the opposition defence from moving forward and create more pressure.

All four of the attacking quartet are flexible in swapping positions and that is what has made the Foals such a dangerous team this time around. Favre has not overlooked the defence. The record of the defence so far is only second to Bayernai??i??s. The Swiss master has built a fluid and creative attack which can be molded into different shapes from a 4-2-3-1 even during the course of a game. In the game against Bremen, in order to change things around, Arango and Reus were placed into the flanks instead of their more central role and the rejig changed the course of the game completely. Though ephemeral, Gladbach did manage to knock Bayern off the perch after completing a rout over KAi??ln in the Rhine derby. It was their fourth consecutive victory in the league ai??i?? a feat repeated for the first time since 1995.

A lot of Gladbachai??i??s fortune reversal as well as Favreai??i??s attacking tactical genius can be attributed to the rise of one man ai??i?? Marco Reus. A Borussia Dortmund youth graduate, he attracted attention for his exploits with Rot-Wiess Ahlen in Bundesliga 2 in 2008-2009. Gladbach snapped him up and in his first Bundes liga season, the precocious talent scored 11 goals and provided 4 assists which also included a 50m solo run goal, his first Bundesliga goal for Gladbach. Last season he improved on his previous achievements. Mostly playing as a winger, Reus scored 12 times and notched up 10 assists. His contribution for the Foals to stay up was immense, as the attacker scored 4 times in the last six games, including the decisive goal against Bochum in the relegation play-off.

A playmaker, a winger, a striker – Marco Reus!

.

This year, too, the attacker has proved to be the focal point of his team as Favre has built the attacking strategy of the team around him. In 16 appearances, he has already scored 11 times and raked up 4 assists. Reus is one of a kind player in this generation who alone can play in various positions, giving his coach full freedom of changing the course of the game channelizing the direction of attack by swapping his position on the field. Reus has played off the forward this season. He is not an out-and-out number 9 needed in a solitary strikerai??i??s role. He is one of those rare number 9’s who can not only go for the kill, but also can be a creative force ai??i?? procuring incisive passes for teammates. In short a centre forward who could play the role of a number nine as well as that of a number ten. When the need be, he can be operated down the right wing, where his acceleration, first touch, direct runs and the tendency to cut-in could provide a cutting edge to Gladbachai??i??s attacking rapier. With Hanke playing as a forward, Reusai??i?? playmaking skills come into the foray where he is in a league of his own. And even if he plays behind Hanke, he assumes the role of an auxiliary striker with an eye for a goal. A footballer who can be lethal in three different positions in the attacking third ai??i?? Marco Reus, a true attacking all-rounder.

The mention of the renaissance of Gladbach would be incomplete without the mention of Marc-AndrAi?? ter Stegen, the man who has managed 7 clean sheets this season so far. Even more, the rookie has conceded more than one goal only once in the league. His side has conceded the second least number of goals, only next to Neuer-led Bayern defence. The goalkeeper, who has won the Fritz Walter gold medal (U19) for his performances in the last season, has only gone from strength to strength. In the game in which he has conceded 2 goals, against Bayer Leverkusen, he made a number of miraculous saves to save the blushes of his team.

Gladbach in the safe hands of ter Stegen

.

It is highly unlikely for Gladbach to win the league. But if they manage put in three-fourth of what they have done so far in the rA?ckrunde, the possibility to play in either of the Continental tournaments looks promising. However, a lot will depend on Reus and ter Stegenai??i??s fitness as both the players have led the team in attack and defence respectively. And to be honest the team relies heavily on these two players.

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6 Responses to “Borussia MAi??nchengladbach : Enter The Renaissance”

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  1. Aniket Saha says:

    Brilliantly written.

  2. Geni Flum says:

    Outstanding!

  3. Jürgen Moormann says:

    Bull’s-eye.

  4. Borussenecho says:

    Lucien Favre brought something in the team that was missing for decades. A clear and structured system (flexible on the situation and the opponent) and a team consistence (mannschaftliche Geschlossenheit). The most intelligent team manager at Borussia since Hennes Weisweiler and Udo Lattek. It is to hope that “Lulu” will be given much space for creating his ideas from the bosses of Borussia (there must be definetely a more foresighted manager then the present one to assist Favre in his achivements!). Then there will be a fulfilling future for the team for many years.

    • Geni Flum says:

      (there must be definetely a more foresighted manager then the present one to assist Favre in his achivements!) ?????
      All present players were employed by “the present manager”! I think he did a decent job.

      • Borussenecho says:

        Logan Bailey, Michael Bradley, Raul Bobadilla, Joshua King, Thorben Marx … They all were transfered by Max Eberl. None of them did really make it! Besides remember Favres’ statements toward the new players who came in the summer break.
        And don’t forget about the real unnecessary long term treaty for Frontzeck (the man who failed already before with two clubs). It costs the club so much money. Don’t tell me Eberl is a good manager. Not at all!