The countdown of our choices for top 25 players of the 2014-15 Bundesliga season continues with a Borussia Mönchengladbach-heavy section, as die Fohlen grab 80% of this segment of the list, with one of Travis Timmons’ favorite unsung midfielders standing strong amid all the green, black, and white.
15. Max Kruse (Borussia Mönchengladbach)
Borussia Mönchengladbach’s season was an ensemble affair. This was evident all over the pitch, but particularly in attack where three of die Fohlen divided 34 goals fairly evenly.
Max Kruse had eleven goals, including one each in match days 30-32 while third-place Gladbach were surging to a Bundesliga best 39-point Rückrunde, a stretch of matches bookended by visits from second-place VfL Wolfsburg and fourth-place Bayer Leverkusen. Though Borussia could not ultimately seize on their Kruse-fuelled 1:0 over the Wolves to steal the vice-champion slot, they did use Kruse’s deadlock-breaking goal en route to a 3:0 win over Leverkusen that all but assured they’d go straight to Champions League group stage this fall.
Kruse also contributed nine assists to the cause this season in his final season for Mönchengladbach, as he’s departing to join Wolfsburg, leaving behind a legacy as being a huge help to returning Borussia to Bundesliga prominence. (Randall G. Hauk)
14. Patrick Herrmann (Borussia Mönchengladbach)
Last season Herrmann managed to establish the rather unflattering record of being the player who was subbed off the most during the course of a season in the Bundesliga history. The extremely talented winger had a somewhat decent start to the season, scoring three goals and creating one assist during the Hinrunde of the 2014/15 season. His old problem of blowing a bit hot and cold was still there though.
However, the Rückrunde saw Herrmann really showing why he has been considered to be one of the greatest talents at BorussiaPark over the last few years. A series of brilliant performances saw the 24-year-old score 8 goals in addition to his 4 assists during the second half of the season.
The fact that Herrmann played the best Rückrunde in his career hasn’t gone unnoticed either. For the national team’s upcoming fixtures against Gibraltar and the US the winger makes his first appearance in Jogi Löw’s squad since March 2013. Hopefully, this time he’ll be able to get his debut for the senior side of Die Nationalmannschaft. (Nik Wildhagen)
13. Johannes Geis (1. FSV Mainz 05)
This season capped off Geis’ two year rise to stardom. After an impressive 2014-15, the holding / box-to-box midfielder has emerged as a transfer market “it boy” this summer. From his deep-lying position in M05’s midfield, Geis created a staggered 74 scoring chances on 71 Key Passes, equating to about 2 scoring chances a match created for Mainz. With 4 goals and 3 assists, Geis’ main contribution was the provider of the crucial pass-before-the-assist.
However, Geis is an all-round valuable passer, who led his team in a number of passing categories, like volume. Moreover, after Xabi Alonso, Geis led the league in accurate longballs for a non-keeper. Because of heavy longball volume, Geis’ completion rate looks pedestrian (73%), but don’t be fooled. These longballs sparked a majority of M05’s scoring chances last season. Heck, the average length of his passes was 26m – far, far above other outfield players.
Finally, as a holding midfielder, Geis has always earned his stripes as a physical man, stepping in front of balls with a couple clearances and a couple interceptions per match. No longer is the 21 year old unsung. Geis’ spotlight is bright and the transfer market beckons, as does his former coach, Thomas Tuchel, now at BVB. Jogi Löw, sign this blonde up! (Travis Timmons)
12. Yann Sommer (Borussia Mönchengladbach)
Stepping into the shoes of a local lad who has made it all the way to the national team is by no means an easy task for any player. The Swiss international Yann Sommer has managed it brilliantly though. These days the fans of Borussia Mönchengladbach may have fond memories of Marc-André ter Stegen, but their fondness for their new keeper might even be a bit bigger.
Sommer is the sort of keeper who fits perfectly into a Lucien Favre side. His passing and understanding of the game are great, he has a firm grip on his defence and the Swiss a model professional both on the pitch and off the pitch.
In addition to being great at the work that often times isn’t noticed by the press or the average fan, Sommer has also managed to show that he has qualities that are easily spotted by the masses. The 26-year-old has great control of his box and he has no problems knowing when to get out to catch a cross or a corner or when to stay on the line. Some might even say that he has greater qualities in those areas than Marc-André ter Stegen.
The fact that he has kept 15 clean sheets, managed to keep out 82.7% of the shots coming towards his goal and that he has made 12 vital saves over the course of this season speaks volumes about the Swiss’s qualities on the line. (Nik Wildhagen)
11. Granit Xhaka (Borussia Mönchengladbach)
Xhaka, the 22 year old Swiss international, was something like the logical premise to Gladbach’s sensational 2014/15. The holding midfielder emerged as the Foals’ most valuable player we-don’t-pay-enough-attention-to. Not anymore. Xhaka developed into the Bundesliga’s premier holding midfielder, equally skilled as a defender and ball distributor. Typically, Xhaka is so successful at his job that he’s invisible during matches.
Although Weltmeister Christoph Kramer might be the more visible of Gladbach’s midfielders, Xhaka was more valuable this season, anchoring the league’s supreme double-pivot pairing. Xhaka is slightly more defensive of the two; e.g. Kramer dribbles a bit more, while Xhaka contributes more work in various defensive metrics. Xhaka is an aerialist, thanks to his height, frequently challenging for aerial balls. He contributes many, many interceptions, too, which help spark the Foals’ counters.
Yet Xhaka is skilled in other ways. For example, he led Gladbach in passing volume and, after keeper Sommer, led his side in successful longballs per match; indeed, along with M05’s Geis, Xhaka was a league-leading outfielder in this regard. For a club relying on stretching space and breaking a high speeds, Xhaka’s longball skills are invaluable for Gladbach. For now, Xhaka anchors the Foals as Kramer returns to Leverkusen; unfortunately for Gladbach, the sirens of Europe are surely on high alert. (Travis Timmons)