Move aside Levante, this year’s Cinderella story in European football turns out to be Borussia Mönchengladbach. The father of that success, Lucien Favre, is still not ready to get out the champagne just yet. And he might have a couple of good reasons.
If you had fallen into a coma after the first half of last season, and you had just woken up after the 13th match day you would probably have a hard time understanding the Bundesliga table. Schalke and Stuttgart in the top half of the table, and Borussia Mönchengladbach gunning for a Champions League spot as it stands. The Foals houdiniesque escape from relegation last year came after Lucien Favre took over the side after 22 match days. Under his leadership Gladbach managed to gather 20 points in the last 12 matches of the season and don’t seem to be stopping anytime soon.
Favre’s men have continued their good in run into the current season. The team is now soundly in contention for a European spot, a big feat considering that their primary goal for the season was to stab off relegation. In the 25 games Favre has been at the club The Foals have taken 1.84 points per game. Last season Favre saved Gladbach from relegation after a historically poor first half to the season, one which no other side in the past managed to overcome to avoid relegation. Last weekend saw Gladbach defeat Werder Bremen 5-0, the team’s highest win since 1994. Gladbach are constantly reaching new heights under Favre, and they are doing so quickly.
Igor de Carmargo coming back from injury this week is good news for the team, however, how to work de Carmago into this well-functioning unit should give Favre some headaches. The Brazilian born Belgian international has two goals from his 6 appearances this season, both goals being crucial match winners, (1-0 against Bayern, and 1-0 against Hamburg).
Counter attacking football at its finest
Favre lets his teams play counter attacking football. One of the reasons for him keeping Borussia Mönchengladbach up in the league last year was the Swiss’s ability to sort out the defense. Central defenders Dante and Stranzl have become one of the best duos in the Bundesliga under Favre, all the while left back Daems saw and up swing in form and German under 21 international Tony Jantschke broke into the starting formation of the team.
Alongside Jantschke a couple of other talented players have become cornerstones for this young and exciting team. Goalkeeper Marc-André ter Stegen has quickly become a fan favorite with excellent saves, and his cool, calm and collected behavior at the back. Patrick Herrmann has been a revelation in midfield for Borussia Mönchengladbach this season, and Håvard Nordtveit and Roman Neustädter have kept up their good form from last season. All the while Marco Reus, Juan Arango and Igor de Carmargo are there to provide the magic upfront.
While most Bundesliga followers have been at the edges of their seats almost every time they’ve watched Borussia Mönchengladbach, one man has tried to reign in the enthusiasm at the club. Lucien Favre told German broadcaster ZDF after his team’s win against Hannover:
”We still have to gather enough points to stay in the league. Look at Frankfurt, they had 25 points at the end of the Hinrunde, and they got relegated last season.”
While Favre’s objections may be valid for now, the team is quickly moving towards the 40 point benchmark that would save them from the drop. And then what?
New goals have to be defined then, and if the team failed to reach them, this season might eventually be considered a disappointment by the Gladbach faithful.
Reasons to be cautious
Favre knows how quickly things can change in the Bundesliga well enough. After a fourth place finish with Hertha Berlin in 2009, he got fired the year afterwards when the Old Lady struggled in the relegation fight (and ultimately got relegated). Therefore it stands to reason that Favre won’t declare any outlandish goals after Borussia have gathered their 40 points. If the Swiss starts talking about a finish amongst the top 6, it will most certainly only be towards the end of the season.
Bundesliga history is full of sides who performed well one half only to suffer in the second, Frankfurt being one such example last season and Hoffenheim topping the table after 17 matches and only ending up 7th at the end of the season is another. A number of factors can go wrong for Gladbach in the second. Marco Reus has been their most important player in the first half of the season, and is in tremendous form at the moment. An injury to him might derail Gladbach’s hopes for Europe in the second half of the season.
On the other hand, there are also a number of reasons to be optimistic for now. The Foals have an easier run in than most teams, Köln, Augsburg and Mainz are all obstacles the team can overcome considering the form it is in. Only in their home game against Dortmund on match day 15 Gladbach can’t be considered to be favorites. It is too early to tell how Gladbach will ultimately fare, but one thing is for sure: The team is on the right track, because of Lucien Favre.
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