The new Bundesliga season is only a week away and clubs throughout the league are busy preparing for another roller coaster year. Amongst them is Borussia Mönchengladbach who defied all expectations last season to stay up after a disastrous first half to the season.
Bringing us this preview is Jonathan, a Leverkusen supporter living near London who closely follows German football and has lived in Weimar, taking a particular interest in the history and development of East German football. You can follow Jonathan on twitter @JonathanLines1
The Great Escape
The miraculous escape of Borussia Mönchengladbach, who had looked doomed for relegation in February, surely stands alongside Borussia Dortmund’s title triumph as one of the Bundesliga’s great stories of last season. After losing 3-1 to St. Pauli that month, with 16 points from 22 games and seven points from safety, coach Michael Frontzeck was dismissed, leaving Lucien Favre with fourteen games to save the Foals’ season. Borussia were back in the all-too-familiar relegation fight after an uncharacteristically trouble-free campaign the previous year.
But the Swiss coach brought a golden touch to Borussia Park. In those fourteen games, Gladbach picked up 20 points. By winning three of their final four games, including impressive victories over Dortmund and Hannover 96, they had miraculously bought themselves two extra games to save their season against 2. Bundesliga side VfL Bochum. This led to a curious scenario in which Mönchengladbach went into the relegation play-off as one of the form teams in the Bundesliga, and this really showed, as they thoroughly deserved to win over the two legs.
What to expect and Summer Transfers
Taking into account only matches under Favre, just seven teams picked up more points than the Foals in the run-in. Judging by the way they finished the season, it would appear that fans will have every reason to be optimistic about the forthcoming season. There is a lesson to be learned here though and Gladbach fans will undoubtedly remain cautious. By this time last season there was a similar air of optimism around Borussia Park after the promise of building on the 12th placed finish of the previous year was augmented by the headline signings of Mo Idrissou and Igor de Camargo. .
With all this in mind, what can be expected of Mönchengladbach this season? Firstly, last season’s jailbreak will have given all involved with the club a wave of momentum and confidence which they will have undoubtedly taken into pre-season. Given how unlikely it had looked just months ago, fans, players and staff will see it as a huge boost that Borussia Park will see top-tier football again this season. But this confidence appears principally different to the naive optimism of the previous year, primarily because the team will be so keen on avoiding a repeat of last season’s trouble, knowing that they can play so well. “We all want a steady season, and we are in the position to achieve that”, sporting director Max Eberl has said.
I would also suggest that Mönchengladbach’s actions in the transfer market reflects the qualified and reasoned confidence behind the club’s pre-season preparations. In relation to the rest of the teams in the Bundesliga, they have not had an especially prolific off-season in terms of transfers. As a matter of fact, only three clubs in the league have spent less this summer than Gladbach.
Notably, the club has brought in Swedish central defender Oscar Wendt from Danish Champions FC Copenhagen, who will be a likely partner for their thus far impressive January acquisition Havard Nordveidt. Joining Wendt is Nordveidt’s Norway Under-21 teammate Joshua King, 19 years old, signed on a season-long loan from Manchester United. King spent some time on loan at then English second-tiervoutfit Preston-North-End last term, and has been a regular goalscorer in United’s reserve side. Highly thought-of at his parent club, this will be an important experience for the youngster as he seeks to establish himself at a high level. Max Eberl has indicated that King, a pacey striker, will “provide greater competition up front”, seeming to suggest King will start as a squad member rather than first-team player. This could prove to be a smart signing for the Foals, who, as Eberl admits, suffered awful luck with injuries last season.
Joining King in the Gladbach attack is another name fans are unlikely to have been acquainted with prior to this summer and a somewhat more exotic one too. Yuki Otsu, a 21-year-old left-winger from Japan, can be seen as a bit of a risky transfer, as he had originally been turned down by Borussia after a trial. But Gladbach have given the player whom they have tracked for two years a chance, someone who Eberl admits will need some time to adapt to life in the Bundesliga, “but it’s certain he has the potential”. Despite being unproven entities, something Otsu and Joshua King will bring both hunger and ambition to the club. Because of this, they are likely to fit in very well with the current squad, who have entered pre-season a confident bunch; likewise another new face, twenty year-old Australian Matthew Leckie, who has joined from Adelaide United.
Elsewhere, the double-signing from Karlsruhe of youngsters Lukas Rupp and Matthias Zimmerman, midfielder and defender respectively, will cover for squad members departed, with Karim Matmour the highest-profile exit, signing for the relegated Eintracht Frankfurt. But the squad has not been left weakened by departures, and certainly looks to have been strengthened by those brought in. More importantly, Farve has a larger pool to select from as he tries to create some depth for the Foals.
Although gambles have been taken, there appears to be an encouraging consistency between the qualified confidence of the team and the new players brought in. The signings, notably the youngsters, would appear to fit in very well with the team continuity. The players brought in are not likely to cause disruption due to status or ego, but are instead young, hungry and ambitious. This factor will be so important for a team looking to stabilize their position in the league, especially one whose form towards the end of last season, as well as their performances under Favre, was as good as theirs. The form and fitness of Marco Reus will also be of great importance to the team. ‘We’ve been here before’, everyone involved at the club will have been thinking over pre-season. ‘Let’s not make it happen again’. Everything about Gladbach’s pre-season suggests their fans might just get the stress-free season they desire.
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