Last Friday, we officially reached spring, a time of improving weather, longer hours of daylight, and in the past few years, a time of increased transfer activity from Borussia Mönchengladbach.
Since finishing fourth a few years ago, some of Borussia’s best transfers have been secured well before season’s end. Max Kruse, Yann Sommer, Andre Hahn, and Fabian Johnson all signed with Borussia as the winter began to blur into summer.
Though Thorgan Hazard recently signed a permanent contract after a successful initial loan spell, Borussia’s first new signing is Lars Stindl. The current Hannover captain opted to join die Fohlen on a five-year deal in the summer for a fee of just €3 million. It’s unclear whether Sporting Director Max Eberl will dip into the transfer market again before the season ends, but with chances of reaching the Champions League burgeoning, Borussia Mönchengladbach will be one of the most attractive destinations for young players across the continent in the coming months.
Where, however, does Stindl fit into the current Borussia team? He’s played the majority of his games at Hannover in the past few years as an attacking midfielder – to great effect, it must be added – however, given that the likes of Raffael, Kruse, and the aforementioned Hazard are already established there. Stindl must surely be considered as a candidate for another position.
Some pundits have advocated a formation change to accommodate Stindl alongside his new attacking colleagues. It’s also fair to point out that Stindl is a handy wing player, having occasionally featured on the flanks for his current club.
Given that Christoph Kramer, a stalwart of Borussia’s midfield over the past two seasons, is leaving Borussia to return to parent club Leverkusen, it seems Stindl is the heir apparent to Kramer’s spot in Lucien Favre’s plans.
This makes sense in many ways. The current Xhaka-Kramer partnership works well because of the different approaches to the game of each player. Xhaka is excellent at sitting slightly deeper in midfield than his partner, spraying passes across the pitch, and clearing up any problems caused by the opponent. Kramer, meanwhile, tends to carry the threat forward for Borussia with bursting runs, covering a lot of ground for his team, and creating confusion in the opponents’ backlinem at least when in his most imperious form.
In theory, Stindl should be a better replacement for Kramer than someone like Johannes Geis, who had also been linked with the vacant slot in Borussia’s midfield. Like Kramer, he is slightly more attack-minded than his (future) colleague Xhaka, evidenced by his excellent form as a number ten for Hannover this year. While posing a slightly different threat than did Kramer, Stindl should slot in rather well to the current 4-4-1-1 employed by Favre.
Perhaps even more excitingly, the added attacking threat of Stindl could make Mönchengladbach a slightly more-dangerous side in tight games. The partnership of Kramer and Xhaka hasn’t managed to get on the scoresheet too much this season, with four goals between them in the league. Stindl has six. Additionally, Stindl has created more chances than Kramer has this season, despite missing the first ten games of the campaign. This is partly due to his position, of course, but something he’d certainly carry over to a new role in the Borussia team.
Perhaps most importantly, Stindl is something of an experienced Bundesliga player despite having his best years still seemingly ahead of him. At 26, Stindl has made over 150 appearances for Hannover, even despite a few lengthy injuries. Still, judging by the paths of most careers, it’s reasonable to think Stindle could yet improve over the next few years.
Of course, we also can’t expect Stindl to completely recreate Kramer’s game when in the jersey of Borussia; that’s just not possible. Both players have their unique skillsets, so Borussia’s system will have to adjust. This is probably the reason that the Stindl transfer seems a masterstroke. Favre has a strong track record of making small changes each season to make his new signings fit in with aplomb. Raffael, for example, wouldn’t fit as seamlessly into the Borussia system of Favre’s early reign as he does now, while the arrival of players such as Xhaka, Kramer, Hahn, Kruse and so on have allowed Favre to tinker with his system in the pursuit of the perfect combination for his squad.
So . . . a great signing? Potentially.
A lot of time remains before Stindl’s actual arrival in Mönchengladbach, and everything rests on how the former Germany U21 midfielder settles into any revised system under Favre, but it seems that Eberl has secured the Niederrhein club another bargain.
Lars Stindl, meanwhile, has an important few months in his final few months as captain of Hannover. With eight games to go, good performances from the skipper could be telling in the relegation battle for Tayfun Korkut’s side.