December 15, 2017

2016-17 Season Preview: More than “Merely” Top Four for Borussia Mönchengladbach?

Basics

Name: Borussia Mönchengladbach (Borussia VfL 1900 Mönchengladbach e.V.)

Nicknames: Die Fohlen, Die Borussen (The Foals, The Borussians)

Founded: 1900

Club colors: Black, Green and White

Primary rivals: 1. FC Köln (the Rhine derby).

Borussia-Park

Capacity: 54,057

2015-16 attendance: 873,668 (51,393 per match)

The Fouls' Borussia Park.
The Fouls’ Borussia Park.

Trophies

Bundesliga: 1969-70, 1970-71, 1974-75, 1975-76, 1976-77

2 Bundesliga: 2007-08

DFB-Pokal: 1959-60, 1972-73, 1994-95

UEFA Cup: 1974-75, 1978-79

 

2015-16 Finishes

Bundesliga: 4th with 55 points (67 goals scored, 50 allowed, +17 GD)

DFB Pokal: Round of 16, 3-4 loss to Werder Bremen

Number of Matches won by 2 or more goals:  13

Number of Matches won by 1 goal: 4

Number of Matches drawn:  4

Number of Matches lost by 1 goal: 8

Number of Matches lost by 2 or more goals:  5

Number of matches in which a led was blown, resulting in loss:  1

Number of matches in which a led 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:  2

 

Top 2015-16 Scorers

Raffael: 13

André Hahn: 8

Lars Stindl: 7

 

Summer Test Results

Record: 6-1-1

Goals Scored: 32

Goals Allowed: 9

Rhede 0-15 Borussia Mönchengladbach

Waldhof Mannheim 2-3 Borussia Mönchengladbach

Young Boys 3-3 (p) Borussia Mönchengladbach

Borussia Mönchengladbach 1-2 Zürich

1860 München 1-3 Borussia Mönchengladbach

Chemnitzer FC 0-1 Borussia Mönchengladbach

Hessen Kassel 1-6 Borussia Mönchengladbach

Borussia Mönchengladbach 0-0 Lazio

Questions with an Expert:

I chatted with Manuel, who grew up in Mönchengladbach, but currently lives in the UK. He’s the host of English language vollraute abroad (@Vollraute_en) and panelist on German vollraute (@vollraute_de), and blogs about all things Gladbach at halbangst.de (@halbangst).

Follow Manuel on Twitter: @Binger05

Keep an eye out for…

I expect Thorgan Hazard to make another step forward to become a forward of international format. He had a hard time finding his feet two years ago, but has been much improved in the last nine months. He has everything, technique, physique and a great vision.

Losing Granit Xhaka will be a big blow. Who steps up to lead this team?

The post-Xhaka leader question was central to the summer break discussion. Returned Christoph Kramer has visibly matured in Leverkusen and with captain Lars Stindl, Yann Sommer, Fabian Johnson and “comebacker” Tony Jantschke there’s a few players to lead the team now.

Second season for manage André Schubert, how has he done so far? What is the general opinion of him?

Favre’s footsteps were huge ones to follow. Schubert, despite a winning streak, had some rough patches with fans and the media (including myself), as he has different ideas and vision. Currently everybody is behind his idea of a modified 3-4-3 attacking football and looking forward to what he can do with the squad.

What will opposing sides underestimate about Gladbach?

The team has a great mixture of speed, technique and possession-play patience. Gladbach is not the counter-attacking monster it was with Reus or Arango, a more settled, matured team that’s all the more dangerous.

Tip you’d give fans visiting Borussia-Park for the first time:

The new Biergarten has opened just next to the stadium, so that’s great as a starting point on a sunny day. The stadium is out of the way so not that much else to do. Be patient after the match, shuttle buses are crammed.

Where will Gladbach finish?

I believe we’ll see an exciting season with lots of goals at Borussia-Park. Gladbach will go for the big money top four and challenge the likes of Bayern, BvB and Leverkusen and come in fourth again.

When last we saw them

Gladbach accomplished their main objective last season, qualifying for the Champions League by finishing fourth in the Bundesliga. While the goal was met, there were many ups and downs along the way, including a five-match losing streak to start the year in the league that ended up costing Lucien Favre his job.

André Schubert took over as interim boss prior to Matchday 6, and began his tenure at the helm of BMG with six wins in a row — all by two goals or more. After Gladbach drew their seventh game under Schubert, the interim title was removed on the 13th of November.

The Champions League draw was cruel to the Foals in 2015, grouping them with Juventus, Manchester City and Sevilla. Gladbach finished bottom of the group, missing out on the Europa League by a point to Sevilla, who would go on to win the competition.

Comparing home form to away makes Mönchengladbach almost look like two different teams. Die Fohlenelf averaged 2.35 points per match played at Borussia-Park, but just .88 per road game.

 

Aspiration

Champions League qualification… or more? The Bundesliga has been a two-horse race for years. Not since Wolfsburg did it in the 2008-09 season has a team not named Bayern Munich or Borussia Dortmund raised the Meisterschale. With Bayern going through a coaching change, and Dortmund looking to integrate many new pieces into a young side, if there ever was a year for an outsider to break the duopoly, this is it.

Reality

Champions League Qualification. This has been par for the course for the Foals, consolidating a strong league position while reaping that extra revenue from midweek European matches. Even with the turnover in Dortmund and Munich, Gladbach are a little too far off the pace to realistically mount a title bid.

The Boss

While this is the third club André Schubert, it’s far and away the biggest job he’s had. Guiding SC Paderborn to promotion to the 2. Bundesliga in 2009 was respectable, but things went horribly wrong at his next gig. Schubert won just one of his first seven matches at St. Pauli and was sacked before the end of September 2011, less than three months into his contract.

Hard man coach, André Schubert.
Hard man coach, André Schubert.

 

Philosophy

At first, Schubert lined his team up in a 4-4-2 similar to that employed by Lucien Favre during his time at the club, but about three quarters of the way through the campaign he switched to a system with three central defenders. As Manuel mentioned, this has been a transition to playing more possession-based football, but the ability to strike quickly on the counterattack remains.

Plan B

Last season was a really weird one for Gladbach, and as a result, it’s somewhat difficult to know exactly what Plan B is for this team. Nearly 53 percent of their league matches were decided by two goals or more. Four times Gladbach won by 4+ goals, twice they lost by at least four. When trailing, expect this side to play a much more direct brand of football.

Notable Transfers

Out:

  • Granit Xhaka (Arsenal)
  • Roel Brouwers (Roda JC)
  • Branimir Hrgota (Eintracht Frankfurt)
  • Havard Nordveit (West Ham United)
  • Marlon Ritter (Fortuna Dusseldorf)
  • Martin Stranzl (End of career)

In:

  • Christoph Kramer (Bayer Leverkusen)
  • Jannik Vestergaard (Werder Bremen)
  • Lászlo Bénes (MSK Zilina)
  • Tobias Strobl (1899 Hoffenheim)
  • Mamadou Doucoré (PSG B)
  • Djibril Sow (Gladbach II)
  • Tsly William Ndenge (Gladbach II)

Strengths

While it isn’t a specific attribute that is necessarily measured on the pitch squad depth is going to be big for Gladbach. With reliable replacements at just about every position across the board, there shouldn’t be much of a decline in quality when Schubert rotates.

Speed is something this team has had for years. André Hahn, Ibrahima Traoré, Patrick Herrmann and Fabian Johnson are all capable of breaking away at pace.

Weaknesses

Defensive midfield. While Christoph Kramer has returned on a permanent basis, two bodies were lost in this department. Neither Granit Xhaka nor Havard Nordveit will be easy to replace, but sporting director Max Eberl did the right thing by looking to fill the void from within. Mahmoud Dahoud came up from the academy and made a big impact, the Foals will be hoping Tsly William Ndenge and Djibril Sow eventually can contribute similarly.

Crucial Stretch in Schedule

The schedule gods were kind to Gladbach. Only twice do they play consecutive games against teams that finished in the top eight last season. Potential problems will pop up when the calendar becomes congested due to European fixtures.

Verdict

Fourth, again. There’s no reason that Gladbach should miss out on next year’s Champions League with the personnel they have. A manager ready to step into the spotlight in his first full year with the club and an experienced but youthful squad capable of making Borussia-Park a fortress are just a couple of reasons that Fohlenelf fans should be excited heading into the 2016-17 season.

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Jack loves all types of football, but the Bundesliga is his preferred league to watch. (Who doesn't love Konferenz?) A recent broadcast journalism grad from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, he also writes for SBNation on the Bundesliga and is an editor for Aston Villa blog 7500toHolte.com. Find him on Twitter: @JackGrimse

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