If you looked at the Bundesliga table for just a moment, you’ll see that Bayern and Dortmund are far and away the two best teams in the league. And while that is true, if you look past the first five games of the season, another club is right behind them in the top three. That club is Borussia Mönchengladbach, who looked like they were down and out when the season started with those five consecutive losses.
Andre Schubert took over and now Gladbach are contending for a top four spot once again. And after a 3rd place finish last season, and what could be a top 4 finish against all odds this season, Gladbach could be the team to challenge Bayern and Dortmund next season. This is because they’ve played well against the top sides, and they have players, and a manager who are bound to improve, while losing players won’t be a problem either.
Contending With Bayern, Dortmund and The Top Sides
The only way that a team can compete for the title is by getting results against the rest of the top four, which currently means Bayern and Dortmund. And the Foals have done as well as anyone against the top two so far this season. Since Schubert took over, they faced Bayern and Dortmund at the Borussia-Park. Against the Bavarians, they won 3-1 in a famous result that led to Bayern’s first loss of the season. Before the game, Bayern had looked invincible at times, with the 5-1 win against Wolfsburg making it seem like they already had the title in their grasp.
But everything changed for Gladbach and Bayern on that night, as Andre Schubert got his first big win as manager. Gladbach dominated the Bavarians, and the 3-1 scoreline might’ve been generous for Bayern when you consider the amount of chances that Borussia had in that contest. Against Dortmund, who were in top form at the time, Gladbach were alright but ended up losing 3-1. That match could’ve gone either way, with Die Fohlen making a big push after falling down 2-0. Raffael got on the scoresheet, and it looked like they could earn a draw in the match, but Dortmund prevailed. If they can dominate Bayern at home, and play Dortmund very close as they did this season, Gladbach can certainly mount a push towards the top of the table depending on other results.
Speaking of the other results, Borussia have done well against the other top sides as well. Against surprise over-achievers Hertha Berlin, Gladbach dominated them at home and away. Just recently, Gladbach cruised to a 5-0 home win over the third place Berliners at the Borussia-Park. But before then, they managed an impressive 4-1 away win in dominating fashion. Overall, they beat Berlin 9-1 on aggregate, and were responsible for two of the capital city club’s eight losses this season, which shows just how much Andre Schubert’s men dominated the third place side, who are known for their stout defense,
But besides Berlin, Gladbach also fared well against other top sides. They beat Schalke away by a convincing scoreline of 2-0 in the DFB-Pokal, and they beat them 3-1 at home in the Bundesliga. And when Die Fohlen hosted the Royal Blues, they were unlucky to lose by a 2-1 scoreline which was fueled by a Martin Hinteregger own goal. On aggregate, that adds up to a 6-3 advantage to the Foals over the Royal Blues in three matches, which is impressive considering the quality of the opposition.
After dominating both Schalke and The Berliners, they also have fared well against Wolfsburg. Even though Die Wolfe aren’t in or close to the top 4, they still have the talent of a side that reached the Champions League quarterfinals and stunned the world by beating Real Madrid in Wolfsburg. Against the Wolves, Gladbach won 2-0 at home, but they stumbled to a 2-1 away loss in a tightly contested away match. Either way, they did pretty well in both games against last seasons’ second place finishers and Pokal champions.. All in all, Die Fohlen fared well against Bayern, Dortmund Schalke and Wolfsburg so far this season. And the one bad performance they had against a top side was against Leverkusen when they lost 5-0. It will be interesting to see how they fare against Leverkusen at home, and against Bayern at the Allianz Arena.
A Full season of Schubert should be cause for improvement
Another thing that Gladbach have going for them is an abundance of young stars. Just like almost every top Bundesliga club, Borussia have some of the best youngsters in the world at their disposal. Mahmoud Dahoud, Andreas Christensen, Nico Elvedi and Thorgan Hazard are all very talented young players. And some of the mainstays like Granit Xhaka and Patrick Herrmann are still young enough to improve as well, being under 25. With all of these players bound to improve because of experience gained this season, we could see a top four caliber side get even stronger.
With a full season to play in familiar surroundings for Christensen after coming on loan in the summer, the Danish centre back should continue to grow as a player based on what has already been a great season so far. The familiarity that he’ll have with his teammates and in Bundesliga play can’t be overlooked. The same can be said for Dahoud, who knows his role these days and has confidence after the performances that he has had this season. The midfielder has gotten better and better this season, and his trajectory is soaring.
Besides those two, other players look bound to improve as well. Like the Swiss born defender Elvedi, who has only a small sample size of experience. But the more Bundesliga time he gets, the better that his performances will get as well. And for Xhaka and Herrmann, they will improve the team if they can stay on the pitch. Xhaka will need to cut down on his red cards, and Herrmann needs to be consistently fit. If they both can stay on the pitch more than they have this season, The Foals will continue to threaten.
Another reason why all of these players are likely to improve is simple … more and more Schubert. The German has done wonders for the club since taking over, and now that he’s going to have a full season along with the preseason and summer transfer window, Borussia will certainly benefit. He can bring in his own players, and add necessary reinforcements to the team as well. Moreover, Shubert will be able to oversee the player’s fitness and what they do during the offseason — an important if often overlooked factor.
Schubert will be able to do that, and based on how he’s managed, he’ll help players like Hermann tremendously. But besides the fitness, the players will be able to better understand their roles. Schubert should improve as a manager as well, and fix the club’s biggest weakness since he was appointed — their road form.
The 44 year-old native of Kassel has the summer to figure out why Gladbach have been so gawdawful on the road. Their home form has been outstanding — 34 points earned in 15 matches at Borussia Park, with a +21 goal differential. But that elite production at home has been betrayed by the club’s away form, which has produced only 11 points from 14 matches, with a -7 goal differential. The club lost only four league matches on the road last season, and drew with Juventus in Turin this season, so creating a better road mentality should be doable for a coach who otherwise has managed his club well in his inaugural season.
As the German manager looks to add players in the summer, the chances that Gladbach lose some of their stars is very high. Havard Nordtveit looks like he’s heading to England, if it’s Arsenal, Liverpool or West Ham. That’s not great for Borussia, but he’s a replaceable player and Die Fohlen have many players they can deploy in the midfield already. The players that will be harder to replace will be Xhaka and Dahoud, as transfer rumors have been swirling around both. Even though they are both players of tremendous quality, the large fees that they will demand based on their 2015/2016 performances will make their loss easier to accept.
Both will likely go for upwards of 30 million euros, and maybe even 40 million. With fees like that Gladbach will certainly have the money to replace those players. And this isn’t anything new for sporting director Max Eberl, who brilliantly replaced Max Kruse for Lars Stindl this summer after Kruse left for Wolfsburg. Moves like that make it seem like Borussia won’t have that hard of a time replacing potential losses this summer. With improving players, and improving manager, and the ability to replace summer losses, Borussia looked primed to be dark horse contenders next season.
After seeing what Schubert has done with Gladbach, and what they’ve done against top sides, Die Fohlen will be dark horse contenders next season. After all, with all of the improvement that’s going to happen between now and the beginning of next season, Gladbach are a top four side on the rise. While they won’t pose a threat to Bayern or Dortmund this season, the two Bundesliga powers should certainly have their eye out next season. If Leicester can do it, can’t anybody?
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