2015-2016 Season Preview: Borussia Mönchengladbach

Borussia Mönchengladbach
Nickname: Die Fohlen.
Founding: 1st August 1900.
Ground: Stadion im Borussia-Park.
Colors: White, Green and Black.
Rivals: 1.FC Köln.

2014-15 Finishes:

Bundesliga: 3rd.
DFB Pokal: Quarter Final, losing to Arminia Bielefeld on penalties.
Europa League: Round of 32, losing 4-2 to Sevilla on aggregate.
Top Goalscorer: Patrick Herrmann, 16 goals in all competitions.

“60-second dossier”

Number of Matches won by 2 or more goals: 11
Number of Matches won by 1 goal: 8
Number of Matches drawn: 9
Number of Matches lost by 1 goal: 4
Number of Matches lost by 2 or more goals: 2
Number of matches in which a lead was blown, resulting in loss: 3
Number of matches in which a lead was blown, resulting in draw: 2
Number of matches in which a deficit was overcome to earn a draw: 3
Number of matches in which a deficit was overcome to earn victory: 1

2014-15 Season Summary

Borussia Mönchengladbach truly had the most excellent 2014/15 season, with virtually every game bringing positive results for fans of the club. There was the unbeaten run from the start of the season which eventually hit nineteen games in all competitions, there was the memorable Europa League run, and there was the win against Köln and wins against positional rivals, as well as several late, decisive goals in the last few weeks of the season. Whichever way you look, Borussia were brilliant at virtually all points of last season, a poor November and iffy post-Europe results aside. Eventually, they beat off Bayer Leverkusen to third, and thus automatic Champions League group qualification, with two games to spare, and only narrowly missed out on overtaking Wolfsburg in second.

The club impressed fans and neutrals alike as an impressive playing style swept away most other clubs, with only FC Augsburg managing to beat the side twice in the league, the second loss to die Függerstädter coming after Borussia’s season had effectively ended before the final day. The style has, perhaps simplistically, been labelled as counter-attacking, and while this is often the case, Favre’s style is much more nuanced and in most games die Fohlen controlled affairs – even to an extent against Bayern in parts of their games against the side’s dominant passing outfit – dominating possession and being pushed forward by Granit Xhaka, the midfield’s lynchpin.

This, combined with a superb solidity – Borussia only conceded 26 goals throughout the entire Bundesliga season, with a measly ten conceded in the Rückrunde. As such, the club were tough to beat and truly deserved their place in the top three, especially given the quick transition of Yann Sommer to life in a Bundesliga goal; the Swiss goalkeeper replaced ter Stegen over the summer of last year and his transition was so seamless it’s almost odd to think he wasn’t there at all prior to last summer.

Obviously, impressive seasons don’t go under the radar and Borussia’s squad has therefore been forced into some change ahead of the new season with Christoph Kramer, a player raised from the 2. Bundesliga to the level of World Champion in huge part down to his spell at the club, has returned to his parent club Bayer Leverkusen after a two-year loan at Borussia, while Max Kruse has left the club for pastures new, more specifically Wolfsburg. Both will, of course, be a huge miss next year – Kruse’s intelligent attacking play created chance-upon-chance for the club last year (even if his finishing left a great deal to be desired) while Kramer’s tireless running and pressing kept Favre’s system ticking.

However, Max Eberl doesn’t have one of the best reputations of all Bundesliga sporting directors for no reason and he appears to have come up trumps again with a slew of new signings, all adding quality to the squad rather than plugging holes with similar but altogether less talented players. Josip Drmic and Lars Stindl appear to be the two players destined to replace Kruse and Kramer but even then, the pair are so completely different to their predecessors that it seems likely that Favre’s tactical system will continue to develop this year, as it has in every year that the Swiss coach has managed Borussia.

Without the burden of Thursday-Sunday games – playing in Europe on a Tuesday or Wednesday allows a great deal more time for rest and preparation ahead of a league fixture, which should to an extent alleviate the ‘European hangover’ of last season – and having had another year for the younger players to bed in and truly make a name for themselves, Borussia are certainly in a very strong position ahead of the new season.

2014-15 Trivia

Borussia won a Bundesliga match away to Bayern München for the third time in their history in 2014/15 – every time they’ve beaten the Rekordmeister in their own back yard, they’ve finished inside the top four of the league.

Additionally, Borussia ended long spells without a win at home to Leverkusen (26 years and three months) and away to Bremen (28 years and two months) in back-to-back games towards the end of the season.

Money Matters

For a team with such a good stature on the pitch, Borussia spend relatively little on wages, with a wage budget of just €23 Million last year (according to the figures at fussball-geld.de). That translates to about €442,000 spent on wages per week by the club. Last season’s top earners were Alvaro Dominguez and Raffael, but with both Patrick Herrmann and Granit Xhaka receiving new contracts in the Rückrunde, it’s probable that the pairing will join the current top earners at the club in their lucrative deals. Additionally, with the signings of Lars Stindl, Josip Drmic and Thorgan Hazard – whose wages Borussia reportedly paid just a fraction of last year – it looks likely that Borussia’s wage bill will be somewhat higher this season, obviously offset by the financial boost of Champions League football.

As for transfer spending, the club have currently made a loss of €10.5m on transfers this summer. With their first team signings having an average age of just 22.4, however – and that figure doesn’t even include promising youngsters Djibril Sow or Mandela Egbo – this has clearly been invested in talent for the future, and as such is a sensible investment.

In:

Josip Drmic, Leverkusen, €10m.
Thorgan Hazard, Chelsea, €8m.
Nico Elvedi, Zürich, €4m.
Lars Stindl, Hannover, €3m.
Djibril Sow, Zürich, €1.5m (initially for Borussia II).
Mandela Egbo, Crystal Palace, €400,000 (initially for Borussia II).
Moritz Nicolas, RW Essen, undisclosed (initially for Borussia II).
Andreas Christensen, Chelsea, two year loan.
Tobias Sippel, Kaiserslautern, free.

Out:

Max Kruse, Wolfsburg, €12m.
Amin Younes, Ajax, €2.5m.
Filip Daems, Westerlo, free.
Nico Brandenburger, Luzern, loan.
Janis Blaswich, Dresden, loan.

The Boss

Borussia’s footballing development in recent years has been headed up by two figures now beloved to both fans of the club and fans of the league as a whole. Max Eberl’s excellent work in the transfer market definitely deserves a mention – there’s no coincidence that he’s routinely named the league’s best buyer – but perhaps the highest superlatives should go to Lucien Favre, the Swiss coach who Eberl hired to stave off relegation in 2011.

The club have finished in the top half in every full season under Favre, only missing out on European qualification – narrowly – in one of the four years, but his most memorable moment arguably still remains staving off relegation with a squad which had been rooted to the bottom of the Bundesliga for most of the year in his first few months. That alone has made Favre a beloved figure to Mönchengladbach fans, but in subsequent years the Swiss tactician has continued to impress with his constantly developing playing system, which can on a basic level be categorised as counter-attacking but is more realistically based on quick and effective transitional play, while keeping the ball. Favre tends to prefer to play a similar squad in each game when possible – obviously he had to rotate frequently in the Hinrunde last year thanks to the Europa League, but as a general rule the club use the same 15/16 players over the course of the season. With the squad now increasing in size year upon year – again a necessity of becoming the European challengers that Favre and Eberl have transformed the club into – it’ll be interesting to see how Favre adapts this squad management tactic to a larger group.

On another note, it’s always interesting to see Favre tell fans and journalists prior to his side’s matches that “es wird schwer, das ist klar” (it’ll be difficult, that’s clear) in roughly every pre-match press conference he attends. It’d be a struggle to find a conference where he doesn’t say it, and that speaks volumes for the consistency and brilliance of the man. Should he leave in the near future, he’ll be difficult to replace, that’s clear.

Odds to win league:

40-1 (Bet365)

Five-Year Record:
16th (2010-11), 4th (2011-12), 8th (2012-13), 6th (2013-14), 3rd (2014-15).

Questions with a Club Fan:

Manuel Breuer (@Binger05)  is a Borussia Mönchengladbach fan who is a key member of the Vollraute Podcast team, as well as the host of the English version of the podcast, Vollraute Abroad. He also writes about the club for halbangst.de.

Keep an eye out for… Ibrahima Traoré. He’s a pacey dribbler on the wings who was a part-time-attacker in his first few months after joining BMG last summer, but has since found his place in the team since the Rückrunde, scoring important goals. Appears to be first choice for the start of the season, and therefore could become the supplier for assists in Favre’s squad.

Terrace favourite… While Traoré is also increasingly popular with the crowds, it is undoubtedly centre back Roel Brouwers, who joined the club back in the 2. Bundesliga in 2007. He has been keeping up with the club’s steady improvements, and whenever he’s on the ball, you can hear a long and cheerful “Roooooooooeeel” echoing around Borussia-Park.

Player you’d happily drive to another club… While Swedish international Branimir Hrgota is certainly very talented and clinical at times in front of goal, I do not believe he’ll be given a lot of minutes this season, or significantly improve enough to warrant a starting spot. I wouldn’t exactly be “happy” to see him elsewhere, but I feel it might be best for Hrgota.

Advice you’d give your manager… Stay until retirement? Seriously, I don’t feel like Lucien Favre needs any advice, given how well he and Borussia have done in the past years. Possibly he might want to experiment with different formations, having mastered the 4-4-2 to perfection, a 2-4-3-1 or 3-5-2 could further improve the team’s flexibility.

Opposition player you secretly admire… Kevin de Bruyne, voted Bundesliga Player of the year, is an obvious choice, but the versatile, fast-paced and intelligent play of David Alaba has impressed me the most in the past two years. That young man even takes penalties and free-kicks like an old dog.

Opposition player you despise… I don’t feel that strong about other team’s players. However, I’d say the likes of Rafael van der Vaart and Kevin-Prince Boateng get me annoyed, for being an over-rated, over-payed burden to their club (who have brought it upon themselves).

Tip you’d give away fans… If you’re in it for the atmosphere rather than your team’s ultra-support, try to get a ticket next to the away stand at the Südkurve, the acoustics are much better there, you’ll be able to hear both sides’ chants.

Where will you finish? Borussia will be battling for that CL-qualification spot (4th). Champions League football might affect the squad in a positive as well as negative way, which would result in the team pushing for Top3 or struggling to keep up with the EL-spots, respectively.

Crucial Fixtures Stretch:

Borussia’s fixtures are spread fairly equally throughout the season, without too many huge games coming back to back. Matchdays 2-7 (and 19-24, obviously) feature somewhat winnable games against Mainz, Bremen, Hamburg, Köln, Augsburg and Stuttgart, but aside from Bremen, die Fohlen dropped at least two points against each team last season. If they can turn that around, not only would it build momentum for the latter parts of both the Hinrunde and the Rückrunde, but Borussia would be well on their way to being an integral part of an interesting race for the top four.

Champions League group matches will be followed by, among others, clashes with Wolfsburg, Schalke and Leverkusen, so Borussia will have to avoid the European hangover which plagued most of last season if they’re to properly challenge their probable positional rivals; domestically the most interesting stretch of fixtures comes between Matchdays 14-16 (and 31-33), when the club face Hoffenheim, Bayern and Leverkusen in quick succession.

Verdict

Borussia’s squad has developed well again this summer, and while balancing the Champions League with the Bundesliga will not be easy in the slightest, it should be slightly more manageable than the Europa League. There’s certainly a great deal of know-how at the club in terms of dealing with Europe now – Favre knows when and who to rotate ahead of games, has experience of catering his training towards two tactical plans instead of just one during the “English weeks”, and the club’s medical department are clearly doing a fantastic job with the lack of long-term injuries sustained at the club over the past few years. Overall, it’s hard to see Borussia not push for the top four again and potentially make waves in Europe and the Cup.

Bundesliga: 4th
Champions League: Round of 16
Pokal: Semi Final

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Conor Garratt

I am Conor Garratt, a 21-year old student from South West England. I study German and History at the University of Southampton, currently spending a year abroad in Mainz, Germany. I love football, especially German football, and am a Swindon Town & Borussia Mönchengladbach fan in my spare time.

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