Borussia Mönchengladbach 2018\19 Season Preview

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Basics

Full Name: Borussia VfL Mönchengladbach 1900 e.V.

Nickname: Die Fohlen/Fohlenelf (The Foals), Die Borussen, Gladbach

Founded: 1 August 1900

Club Colours: White, Black and Green

Main Rivals: 1. FC Köln

Stadium: BORUSSIA-PARK

Moved in: 2004

Capacity: 54,057

Trophies: Bundesliga * 5 (1970, 1971, 1975, 1976, 1977)

2.Bundesliga (2008)

DFB-Pokal * 3 (1960, 1973, 1995)

UEFA Cup/Europa League *2 (1975, 1979)

Last Season

The 2017/18 season was a campaign that promised much for Gladbach. Exciting signings such as Michaël Cuisance, Denis Zakaria, Vincenzo Grifo and Matthias Ginter lined up for the Foals, with a manager in Dieter Hecking who had led Wolfsburg to the runners-up spot not long ago. Although not the most consistent of sides – for example, suffering a 5-1 loss to Leverkusen at home between away wins at Bremen and Hoffenheim – Gladbach found themselves in the upper reaches of the table. When December rolled around, they held a Champions League place, having beaten Bayern in some style on Matchday 13.

From then on, the Foals hit a wall. A disastrous beginning to the Rückrunde saw them lose five of their first six games – even against rivals Köln who were as good as relegated already. They went four games without a single goal, and eventually managed just five wins in the second half of the season, losing eight. In the end, the Foals managed to hold on to a top half finish, finishing ninth for the second year running, but having seen several top four finishes under Lucien Favre, ninth is no longer satisfactory.

 

Transfers In

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This summer’s marquee signing for the Foals is the 25-year-old French attacker Alassane Pléa. Joining for a reported €23m, Pléa, who can play either on the left-wing or as a centre forward, scored 16 goals in Ligue 1 last season. Gladbach had to fight off several Premier League clubs for his signature and his signature can be regarded as somewhat of a coup from Sporting Director Max Eberl. The other major signing is right back Michael Lang, signed from FC Basel to be first choice right back. Lang played for Switzerland at the World Cup, but is set to miss the start of the season with a knee injury.

All Transfers In:

  • Alassane Pléa – OGC Nice (€23m)
  • Andreas Poulsen – FC Midtjylland (€4.5m)
  • Michael Lang – FC Basel (€2.8m)
  • Keanan Bennetts – Tottenham Hotspur (€2.2m)

Transfers Out

Danish international Jannik Vestergaard has departed for Southampton, with Gladbach receiving €25m for the central defender. A 3-0 win over the Premier League side in a friendly with Vestergaard starting for Southampton suggests that the Dane won’t be missed too much, even though he only played all but two of Gladbach’s Bundesliga games last season. Vincenzo Grifo has also departed after a single season, having endured a difficult year where boss Dieter Hecking didn’t seem to fully trust him. He returns to Hoffenheim, the club where he made his Bundesliga debut.

All Transfers Out:

  • Jannik Vestergaard – Southampton (€25m)
  • Vincenzo Grifo – TSG Hoffenheim (€5.5m)
  • Raúl Bobadilla – Argentinos Juniors (€1.8m)
  • Janis Blaswich – Heracles Almelo
  • Ba-Muaka Simakala – Roda JC
  • Kwame Yeboah – Fortuna Köln
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Pre-Season

  • VfL Lübeck 0-2 Borussia Mönchengladbach
  • SC Weiche Flensburg 0-4 Borussia Mönchengladbach
  • Borussia Mönchengladbach 2-1 FC Augsburg
  • Borussia Mönchengladbach 0-1 FC Ingolstadt
  • Southampton 0-3 Borussia Mönchengladbach
  • Borussia Mönchengladbach 1-3 RCD Espanyol
  • Borussia Mönchengladbach 5-1 Wegberg-Beeck
  • BSC Hastedt 1-11 Borussia Mönchengladbach (DFB-Pokal First Round)

The Boss

 

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Dieter Hecking now enters his second full season in charge of Borussia Mönchengladbach. The former Wolfsburg coach returned to the club where he started his playing career after André Schubert was sacked in 2016. Now 53-years-old, the gruff Hecking endured a difficult campaign last time out, failing to win the complete confidence of the Foals fans. His image as an old-school, no-nonsense coach without much innovation was reinforced by a year where Gladbach showed remarkable tactical inflexibility, sticking firmly to a 4-4-2 even when results were not forthcoming.

Hecking has a contract until 2019, but if Gladbach don’t improve this time out he will be lucky to make it to the end of that contract. In pre-season, he has experimented both with a 4-3-3 and a 3-5-2 to get the best out of a Gladbach squad that has so far failed to deliver on its potential.

The Captain

Lars Stindl is retained as captain for this season, beginning his third year as the club skipper. Stindl struggled for form last year, but the 29-year-old has the experience to guide the team, having played in the Bundesliga for 10 seasons along with 11 caps for Germany. He will be looking to put the disappointment of missing the World Cup behind him by taking Gladbach forward. Goalkeeper Yann Sommer is the vice-captain and will lead the team out in the season opener as Stindl recovers from an injury.

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Squad Overview

Goalkeeper: Yann Sommer will be likely to remain first choice goalkeeper. The Swiss stopper was once again a standout performer in the last season – and he starred in the World Cup too, playing every one of Switzerland’s games and making one of the saves of the tournament against Costa Rica. His performances have seen him linked to Arsenal, Barcelona, Liverpool and Roma, but the newly appointed vice-captain looks set to stay. Tobias Sippel remains the backup, having stood in for Sommer twice last season.

Central Defence: Jannik Vestergaard’s departure means there is a spot in the centre of defence up for grabs. The most likely pairing is Nico Elvedi (when he recovers from the appendectomy) and Matthias Ginter, who was ever-present last year. Tony Jantschke is another option, while depth is provided by youngsters Florian Mayer, Mamadou Doucouré, Marcel Benger and 18-year-old Louis-Jordan Beyer, who has impressed in pre-season.

Fullbacks: Oscar Wendt, now in his 8th season at the BORUSSIA-PARK, will be the first choice on the left-hand side. Andreas Poulsen, a teenager signed from Midtjylland, may fill in when necessary. On the right, Michael Lang would have been first choice, but his injury means that Tony Jantschke will likely start the campaign at right back. Fabian Johnson may also appear at full back from time to time, as could the versatile youngster Beyer, with 21-year-old Englishman Mandela Egbo also available having made his first Bundesliga appearance last season.

Midfielders: The expected switch to a 4-3-3 means that there will be more opportunities for central midfielders. The likely trio would be made up of German international Christoph Kramer, Denis Zakaria and last season’s player of the year Michaël Cuisance. The middle of the park is an area where Borussia is blessed with great young talent, with Zakaria only 21 and Cuisance just 19. Rotation options are provided by youngsters László Bénes and Florian Neuhaus, the latter returning from Fortuna Düsseldorf after helping them win the 2. Bundesliga while on loan. Tobias Strobl may also feature in central midfield, after missing nearly the whole of the 17/18 season through injury.

Wingers: Gladbach has solid squad depth on the wings. Thorgan Hazard looks set to stay at the club despite interest from Valencia and will feature prominently on the left-wing. Patrick Hermann has also announced his intention to remain after speculation that he could be sold. He will be competing with Jonas Hofmann for a starting berth on the right, with Ibrahima Traoré (injured) and Fabian Johnson also involved when fit. There is also the chance that new signing Keanan Bennetts could make some appearances in the first team, while forwards Josip Drmic and Alassane Pléa can also play out wide.

Forwards: The new star signing Alassane Pléa will be expected by many to start up front after his €23m transfer from Nice. However, it remains to be seen where Captain Lars Stindl fits in. Having missed out on most of pre-season, he may find himself out of the starting lineup at times or could be penciled in elsewhere. If Hecking does play two up front, Stindl and Pléa are likely to partner each other, though Raffael and Josip Drmic could also have a role to play. Teenager Torben Müsel might also earn some minutes after joining from Kaiserslautern, though he is expected to remain with the reserves.

Strengths

Dieter Hecking is not renowned as a manager who puts an enormous focus on bringing through young talent, but the Foals have a squad filled with promising youngsters. Last season’s player of the year Michaël Cuisance is just 19, his midfield partner Denis Zakaria is 21, and their compatriot Nico Elvedi is also 21. All three of these are set to be regular starters, and indeed key players. But they are not the only wonderkids in the side – László Bénes, Keanan Bennetts and Andreas Poulsen are all under 21 while Florian Neuhaus is also set to make an impact this season at just 21.

Weaknesses

The biggest weakness in Gladbach’s squad last term was the severe lack of a goal threat. With Lars Stindl seriously misfiring -1500 goalless minutes at one point last season – Borussia didn’t trouble opposition defences as much as they would have liked, most notably in the four game streak in January and February where the Foals lost every game without managing a single goal. Thorgan Hazard was the team’s top scorer with 10 league goals, but that record is not so impressive given that half of those came from the penalty spot.

However, as Alassane Pléa has been signed to bolster the frontlines, it’s difficult to imagine that Gladbach struggle for goals quite as badly as they did last season. Instead, it’s likely to be injuries that cause Hecking the biggest headaches this season. Many first team players have missed at least some of the pre-season – Lang, Stindl, Traoré, Elvedi, Bénes and even Pléa. Not all will be fit for the season opener against Bayer Leverkusen, and if injuries continue to hit Gladbach as much as they have in recent seasons then they could struggle again.

Youngsters to Watch

With many established players aged just 21 or under, it’s difficult to pick what youngsters at Borussia could have a breakout season. But one of the more interesting prospects is midfielder Florian Neuhaus. A product of the youth system at 1860 München, he has appeared in the second tier for both his first club 1860 and for Fortuna Düsseldorf, who he won the title with last season. A key part of the Düsseldorf side, he will now have to force his way into the Gladbach side.  Scoring a superb long-range goal in the 11-1 cup win over Hastedt will go some way to helping his cause, but Neuhaus has a fight on his hands to dislodge the other midfielders from the starting lineup.

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Critical Stretch

  • January 19 – Bayer Leverkusen (A)
  • January 26 – FC Augsburg (H)
  • February 2 – FC Schalke 04 (A)
  • February 9 – Hertha BSC (H)
  • February 16 – Eintracht Frankfurt (A)
  • February 23 – VfL Wolfsburg (H)

Last season, it was the games that followed the Winterpause where Borussia’s season collapsed. This year, they have a tough run of fixtures that includes trips to Leverkusen, Schalke and Frankfurt. However, if Gladbach are serious about qualifying for the Europa League or even the Champions League, they should be looking to defeat Augsburg, Hertha and Wolfsburg and come away with a couple of points from the away games. That will not be easy, but if they can manage it they will be set up nicely for the rest of the Rückrunde.

Prediction

The aim for Gladbach is clear. Club boss Rolf Königs told the fans at the season opening fan event that 9th place is no longer good enough. Europe is the target, and it is certainly possible – but don’t expect a Champions League place. Gladbach will hope that Hoffenheim and Leipzig struggle due to the transitional phase they are each in this season and will hope that Frankfurt struggle under new boss Adi Hütter.

You can keep tabs on this storyline and all others for the Bundesliga over at 1xbet, who have provided a special code just for Fanatic readers.

If all goes well, Gladbach should be able to make it to the Europa League. Expect a 6th or 7th place finish – and if it’s anything less than that, don’t expect Dieter Hecking to stick around.

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Louis Ostrowski

Louis is a Londoner, who's been interested in German football ever since visiting Dortmund during the 2006 World Cup. These days, follows the Bundesliga very closely. Aside from football, Louis has a keen interest in motorsport of all kinds. And he still misses Juan Arango.

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