Thursday, 20 August 2015

A big few weeks ahead for Borussia Mönchengladbach

As the bunting goes up celebrating the return of Borussia Dortmund as a force in the Bundelsiga this season, there are growing concerns regarding the other Borussia after they were so heavily defeated by Dortmund on Saturday.

It doesn't matter how much of a professional you are, when you are being humped 4-0 and you look up at the scoreboard to see there's 40 minutes left in the game, your legs are likely to stop working the way they should and you can't think straight.This was Borussia Mönchengladbach's state towards the back end of their defeat to Dortmund last Saturday.

But the players weren't helped by the one way tactics employed by coach Lucien Favre who favoured caution over attack. This was understandable. He would have had Dortmund scouted during their Europa League and German Cup games and got the strong sense that they were much improved under Tuchel. It was reasonable to think that the opposition would be straight out of the blocks on their first league game of the season and anxious to make up for their dismal campaign, last season.

Moreover with the changes to his starting XI brought about by transfers and injuiries the Swiss coach may have felt obliged to not over complicate matters.That being said, such was the gulf in quality between the two Borussias that Favre must have been tempted to encourage his players to swap shirts with the BVB players and player them in the Champions League instead.

Mönchengladbach's return to the European Cup since they finished runners up in 1977 is a great and merited acheivement and a triumph for Favre and sporting director, Max Eberl. Their success has happened through great football and sound rather than lavish recruitment.

The addition of Max Kruse from Freiburg in July 2013 was hugely influential to the 'Gladbach attack and knitted that front line together very effectively. Similarly, while the Marc Andre Ter Stegen's departure at the end on the 13/14 season was hardly felt as Yann Sommer as ably replaced him. Christophe Kramer's two year loan from Bayer Leverkusen proved profitable for both club and player as the German World Cup winner matured into one of the best centre midfielders of his day and he made a direct contribution to 'Gladbach qualification for the Champions League.

But fiscal frugality has it's downsides. To begin with it's harder to go looking for bargains when you're now a fully fledged group stage Champions League club. Also, there is no guarentee that players as good as Kruse and Kramer are available for cheap at the time you go into market. Both of those players left in the summer and the players thay have signed in their stead are not like for like replaecements. Nor should they expected to be.

Josip Drmić was filthy good at Nurnberg two seasons ago but struggled to find a role at Leverkusen, last season. Unlike Kruse, when he arrived from Freiburg, Drmic arrives short on form and probably confidence. However, the Swiss international can be explosive and should come good if he is given time. The dilemma being that at the level ‘Gladbach are playing this season, time is a luxury he does not have.

Lars Stindl was brought in from Hannover 96 as a sort of replacement for Kramer. But he played deeper than usual and struggled to keep position against Dortmund. The former H96 skipper was instrumental in his team’s sensational 4-2 comeback win at St Pauli in the cup a week earlier which suggests that he’ll settle in time.

Then there are injuries with which to contend. The new center back pairing on Marvin Schulz (20) and Andreas Christiansen (19) are being thrown in at the deep end after having to deputise for the injured Alvaro Dominguez and Martin Stranzl. A Bundesliga baptism of a resurgent Borussia Dortmund is far from ideal but Favre had little choice but to back his youngsters to learn from the experience and learn quickly.

It all ends up in to something of a mix and match and is hardly ideal prepartation for the start of what is in all likelhoood one on 'Gladbach's toughest ever seasons. In fact it's reminiscenmt of the start of the 2012/13 season where BMG tried to qualify for the group stage of the Champions League the season after having lost Reus, Dante and Neustadter in one summer.

Up next on Matchday 2 is Mainz, a team who are already asking themselves some tough questions following their 1-0 home reverse to newly promoted FC Ingolstadt. FCI, although backed by VW wedged are still a very small club and expected to be relegated. Three points will go some way in steadying the nerves at Borussia Park. Anything less could set the alarm bells ringing.