August 23, 2017

Werder Bremen 4 – 0 Borussia Mönchengladbach – Lackluster Foals beaten by Bremen’s youngsters

The fun and attack minded Werder has returned after a week of media controversy.

Werder’s loss against Augsburg didn’t sit well with sporting director Klaus Allofs, who immediately after the final whistle demanded that the players in the green and white jerseys had to step their game up. The team’s poor start into the season, 7 points from as many games, has been the worst introduction ever into a season under long serving coach Thomas Schaaf. Kevin de Bruyne’s comments about his dislike of the German culture and his unwillingness to learn the language added fuel to the fire in the eyes of many observers.

A win against Borussia Mönchengladbach was probably the best recipe to cool the situation down at the Weserstadion. Werder hadn’t lost at home to the Foals since their 1987 7-1 defeat. The record books show 16 wins and 6 draws in the last 22 outings at the Weserstadion between the two sides.  Werder and Schaaf were hoping that this streak would continue on Saturday night.

Line ups and tactics

Lucien Favre trusted the same 11 men who had won against Eintracht Frankfurt two weeks ago, while Thomas Schaaf was forced to replace his injured captain Clemens Fritz.  Czech international Theo Gebre Selassie took Fritz’s spot on right back, Lukimya replaced Sebastian Prödl at centre back and Nils Petersen was preferred to Nigerian striker Joseph Akpala.

Schaaf’s men lined up in their typical 4-1-4-1 formation. Wingers Arnautovic and Elia were constantly swapping their positions, whilst Kevin de Bruyne was given a free role in the Werder line up. Aaron Hunt was at times dropping a little bit deeper to help out the hard-working holding midfielder Zlatko Junuzovic.

Favre went with a 4-2-3-1 formation, placing Xhaka in the hole behind lone striker Luuk de Jong. Juan Arango was given the freedom to drift towards the centre of the pitch at times, whilst Norwegian Håvard Nordtveit had the more active role out of the two holding midfielders, supporting most of Gladbach’s attacks.

Werder Bremen: Mielitz – Selassie, Lukimya, Sokratis, Schmitz – Junuzovic – de Bruyne, Hunt(Bargfrede 82’) – Arnautovic(Ekici 84’), Elia(Füllkrug 74’) – Petersen

Borussia Mönchengladbach: ter Stegen – Jantschke, Stranzl, Dominguez, Daems – Nordtveit, Marx – Rupp(Herrmann 46’), Xhaka(Hrgota 63’), Arango(Hanke 74’) – de Jong

Match & analysis: The Foals roll over after conceding the first goal

Werder started the game on a promising note and created the first chance of the match after 10 minutes. The ball fell to Marko Arnautovic 12 meters in front of goal after a corner by Aaron Hunt, but the Austrian’s shot was blocked by Luuk de Jong. Werder had most of the possession at the beginning of the match, but failed to create chances whilst being on the ball. Marko Arnautovic’s shot from a very narrow angle in the 25th minute was the green and whites best chance out of open play until that point. Two minutes afterwards Gebre Selassie stormed forward from his right back position and combined beautifully with Kevin de Bruyne. The Belgian teenager went for broke with a well placed from 20 meters, forcing Marc André ter Stegen to give a rebound, which the Gladbach keeper collected just ahead of Werder striker Nils Petersen.

Favre’s men on the other side were lurking for counter attacks, and had managed to create a couple of half chances throughout the first 25 minutes of the match.  Nordtveit had the biggest chance of the Foals in the 28th minute: The Norwegian was left alone by his marker, Elia, after a corner kick by Juan Arango. He managed to control the ball beautifully with his first touch, but his shot hit the bar. Gladbach had until this point allowed Bremen most of the possession, whilst cunningly varying their pressing height, all the while tightening the defense.

Werder finally managed to break the deadlock after the 37 minutes. After three out swung corner kicks from the left hand side by Aaron Hunt, Bremen decided to place an inswinger into the box. Kevin de Bruyne’s sharp corner went to the far post where Nils Petersen managed to press the ball over the line.

Gladbach folded like a house of cards after going behind. Tony Jantschke misplaced two passes in his own half within a couple of minutes, giving Aaron Hunt a chance to shoot from 19 meters in the 39th minute. A quick counter attack in the 45th minute saw Aaron Hunt placing a pass into the run of Marko Arnautovic, who had managed to get in behind Gladbach’s defense. The Austrian placed a delicate lob over the advancing ter Stegen and made it 2-0 just before the half time break.

Bremen were happy to defend their 2-0 after the half time break, lurking for counter attacks. Wingers Arnautovic and Elia were weapons in Werder’s arsenal after the break, giving Daems and Jantschke headaches throughout the entire second half. Werder’s third goal of the match came after 76 minutes: Arnautovic ran for almost 60 meters, before stopping in Gladbach’s penalty area, looking up from the ball, where he spotted teenager Niclas Füllkrug. Arnautovic found the subbed on striker with a beautifully sliced cross, and Füllkrug scored his first goal of the season with his first touch of the match.

Zlatko Junuzovic brought the score line to 4-0 after 86 minutes. Mike Hanke had failed to clear a corner kick, leaving the ball to Junuzovic: The Austrian stopped the ball with his heel, taking the ball on the volley, scoring the most delicate goal of the match.

Man of the match: Kevin de Bruyne

The Belgian youngster has in the recent past featured in the headlines, because of his statements about the culture shock he experienced after moving to Germany. After a lot of negative publicity de Bruyne is finally giving the fans something to cheer about. The 21-year-old’s presence in midfield was majestic at times, covering 12.26 km(only being outdone by Zlatko Junuzovic), 118 touches of the ball, hitting 86 succesful passes, assisting five shots, always making himself available for his teammates, made de Bruyne Werder’s most vital player on the day. His drive and determination to go forward was at times too much to handle for Gladbach’s midfield and defense Most of Werder’s fans might not agree with the Belgian’s thoughts about German culture, but they’ll miss the hell out of him when he has returned to Chelsea after his loan spell just the same, given he continues playing this well.

Conclusion: Borussia Mönchengladbach lack a Plan B

Lucien Favre’s men could have returned to a spot in the top half of the table if they had won this match. Gladbach started well into this match, stopping Bremen’s attack in its tracks. After conceding their first goal Gladbach simply fell apart, allowing Bremen to get their crucial second goal with the last kick of the first of half. Favre’s men weren’t able to break through one of the Bundesliga’s weakest defenses after the break, never looking likely to pull one goal back(never mind two). Lucien Favre has plenty of work ahead of Gladbach’s upcoming fixture against Marseille in the Europa League.

Werder have on the other hand created some breathing room for themselves, allowing Thomas Schaaf’s team to work on themselves without the scrutiny of the last couple of weeks. Werder weren’t by any means challenged by Gladbach in the second half, and it still remains to be seen whether or not the green and whites have resolved some of their issues, like conceding too many goals after the 80th minute or their problems when it comes to changing from attack to defense.

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Niklas Wildhagen

Niklas is a 30-year-old football writer and podcaster who has been following the Bundesliga and German football since the early 90s. You can follow him on Twitter, @normusings, and listen to his opinions on @TalkingFussball and on the @AufstiegPod.

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