Denis The Menace- Zakaria becoming the midfield boss at Mönchengladbach

A lot of the attention in the early part of the Bundesliga at Borussia Mönchengladbach has fallen on their dynamic new frontline of Breel Embolo, Alassane Plea and Marcus Thuram. The real star of the show has however has been midfield dynamo Denis Zakaria.

With the vast array of central midfield options at the disposal of trainer Marco Rose, it is no small achievement that the Swiss international has cemented his place as the Foals first-choice number 6. He has been an ever-present this season, playing every minute and been recognised by the fans, who voted him their Player of the Month for August.

The arrival of Rose as trainer is succession to Dieter Hecking has brought about a change in philosophy at the Borussia Park, but Zakaria for one has blossomed under the former Red Bull Salzburg coach. Now in his third season at the club following his signing from Young Boys in 2017, the 22-year-old is defying his young age becoming a real leader on the pitch.

In Gladbach’s 4-3-3 system Zakaria has made the number 6 position his own with both Tobias Strobl and Christoph Kramer having to give way. His performance levels in the first five matches have given the coach little reason to change things.

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Last weekend’s Rheinderby away at Köln was a prime example of his importance as both a midfield destroyer as well as driving force going forward.  He covered 11.15 kilometers (more than any of his team mates), had a passing accuracy of 88%, had 61 ball contacts and won 80% of his duels.

Going forward, Zakaria had three shots on goal- one of which was a superb effort which crashed back off the crossbar. Had keeper Yann Sommer not had an outstanding game himself, Zakaria would have been Man of the Match.

Denis Zakaria heat map vs Koln (courtesy of SofaScore)

With a Kicker average rating of 2.75 from his four games so far, he ranks amongst the best midfielders in the league He leads Mönchengladbach in distance covered 44.54km across 360 minutes of football.

His top early season form hasn’t been limited to the Bundesliga as he was involved in both Switzerland’s recent Euro 2020 qualifiers against Gibraltar and Ireland. He scored and was Man of the Match in the 4-0 win over Gibraltar.

The midweek Europa League debacle, which saw die Fohlen lose 4-0 at home to Austrian side Wolfsberger AC, was the first game this season to see Zakaria underperform. He will be looking to return to form this weekend as Borussia look to end their eight-month winless streak at the Borussia Park against Fortuna Düsseldorf.

“I don’t know why it is [the winless run]” the midfielder said this week. “We want to and must change it quickly. You simply should always win your home games, but that is not the case at the moment.”

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Mathew Burt

A year spent living in Bremen got Mathew hooked on the Bundesliga with regular visits to the Weser Stadion getting in the way of his studies. Back in the UK now, he still keenly follows the Grün-Weißen and German football in general. Follow him on Twitter @matburt74.

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