Borussia Mönchengladbach might not be the biggest name in German football but they’re a club on the rise. Here’s why.
Things have changed drastically at Borussia Park from the days of Michael Frontzeck. And they’ve changed for the better. Following the transfer of power, or the lack of it, to Lucien Favre in early 2011, Gladbach fans have seen the club return to the upper strata of the Bundesliga. Despite regularly losing a few key players every season, Favre and Max Eberl, have ensured that the Foals do not turn in to one season wonders but maintain stability in and around the European spots.
The departures of Marco Reus, Dante and Roman Neustädter, all to fellow German sides for relatively small sums of money, was seen as the first hurdle which Favre couldn’t see Gladbach beyond. After all, he had lost the German Player of the Year, one half of a hugely promising double pivot, and possibly the best center back in the 2011-12 season. The sensational relegation escape of 2011 and the 4th place finish of 2012 were all being seen as accolades that Favre couldn’t build on following the farewells that were bid in the summer of 2012.
The replacements that arrived for the 2012-13 season didn’t aid Favre’s cause either. Granit Xhaka, Neustädter’s successor, lacked the experience to help a club stay comfortable in the highly competitive top flight. Alvaro Domniguez, the center back arrival, didn’t boast of much know-how either. The lack of a replacement for the sensational Marco Reus only exacerbated Gladbach’s supposed problems; a massive drop was on the cards.
Alas, Gladbach managed to finish in 8th place, just four points behind 5th placed Schalke. Disaster had been averted. In fact, Gladbach had done better than many had expected. The shot stopping brilliance of Marc-Andre ter Stegen, Juan Arango’s magical left foot and Tony Jantschke’s defensive tenacity proved to be enough to keep the Foals nestled in the upper half of the Bundesliga.
With the predators hunting elsewhere in the summer of 2013, Eberl could afford to breathe a sigh of relief, shifting his attention to bringing in a few reinforcements. Max Kruse, Raffael and Christoph Kramer were to add to Favre’s arsenal, and help push for a European spot once again. While the spotlight was on the likes of Freiburg and Eintracht Frankfurt, Favre and Eberl patiently plotted a return to Europe. The two attackers formed one of the most potent duos in the German top flight, while Kramer impressed so much so that he earned a call up to the German national team.
Eberl’s magic was finally on show. Losing Reus, Neustädter and Dante for a combined total of around 22 million Euros seemed like poor business but it was all covered up by the acquisitions of Kruse, Raffael and Kramer for a mere 8 million Euros. The return achieved on spending this sum of 8 million does seem to have exceeded the loss suffered by the inevitable departures of Reus, Dante and Neustädter.
Favre’s usage of players has been impeccable too. Starting from Reus’ deployment in a free role to the striking team of Kruse and Raffael to Jantschke’s shift to central defense, Favre has always gotten the best out of his players. His faith in less proven players like Oscar Wendt, Lukas Rupp and Julian Korb has paid huge dividend. Unlike the troubles faced by other one season wonders, Favre’s flexibility has allowed for Gladbach to stay up around the European spots.
The new season is right around the corner and talk of the occupying the European spots seems more around the camps of VfL Wolfsburg, Schalke and Bayer Leverkusen. They’ve all had a fairly active transfer window thus far, with Wolfsburg even hunting some of the bigger names in European football. Unlike these sides, Gladbach also lack the financial backing from industry.
The inevitable also happened this summer as ter Stegen finally bid adieu to Borussia Park. The talented youngster had grown into a Gladbach star with his heroics between the sticks and leaves a gaping hole to be filled. Another departure should leave Gladbach fans teary eyed and wondering whether a replacement can truly be made – that of Juan Arango. The man with the sublime left foot scored sensational goals aplenty for the Foals over the past few years, also ensuring that Favre and Eberl need to find a set piece specialist.
Despite all of this, Gladbach can see things in a positive light. Their forays into the transfer market are a clear sign that they will be up and about the European spots. Yann Sommer, who has come in for ter Stegen, is an able goalkeeper himself. His 8 million Euro price tag is testament to who highly valued he is and there is the added bonus of his European experience with FC Basel. The acquisition of Fabian Johnson is one of the best of the Bundesliga thus far. The American international’s versatility will play a huge factor in Gladbach’s three front campaign and allows Jantschke to be used exclusively as a center back. The best part of this transfer for Gladbach is that he cost them nothing at all!
Andre Hahn, Thorgen Hazard and Ibrahima Traore give Favre much needed options in attack. Arango’s departure to Mexico leaves the left flank up for grabs. Given Hahn’s scintillating season with FC Augsburg, it seems like he will be the coach’s first pick. Traore’s natural ability to start down the left flank, as opposed to Hahn’s right sided affinity, is a factor that acts in the Guinean’s favor. Patrick Herrmann’s inconsistency also leaves the door open for the trio, while Favre’s tinkering could see Hazard deployed in the hole behind a lone striker.
With more options to choose from, Favre should be able to find a regular eleven that can work with more efficiency than that of last season. The engine of the side is essentially the same with a few new parts added to the exterior. Hahn and Traore may not have the magical left foot of Arango but they will provide far more direct goal threats. Granit Xhaka now has two full seasons’ worth of experience in the Bundesliga and should be able to provide a lot more of that tenacity in midfield. Johnson’s arrival gives Jantschke and Co. a huge breather, especially with continental football to play for.
The future couldn’t have looked brighter for the Foals. Summer arrivals seem perfect, giving the coach so much to choose from. The fact that Favre is still at the club is a massive bonus since it ensures continuity and familiarity. Eberl’s running of the club has been perfect over the past few seasons and his presence is an added advantage. Regular European football over the next few seasons seems a highly likely feature given the current situation at Borussia Park. It might not be the 70’s all over again but if it’s Gladbach you’re backing, you’re bound to be smiling over the next few years.