Editor Axel Falk looks at and previews one of the most popular German clubs, VFL Borussia Mönchengladbach.
Borussia-Park is one of the stadiums in Bundesliga that I've visited and it's one of the best. Even though it isn't even remotely close to being in the middle of the actual city, the city itself provides free shuttle buses to the stadium and back, which is very helpful. Helpful is one of the words that epitomizes Borussia Mönchengladbach, one of the most prominent and sympathic clubs in Germany. Borussia is an old club, from 1900, and has a very rich and successful history. In the seventies, Borussia Mönchengladbach was one of the best teams in the world and players like Berti Vogts and Jupp Heynckes won title after title for the foals from Rhein. Borussia was actually the first club to ever win three consecutive titles, a record only beaten by Bayern last season as they won their fourth consecutive. However, after this ridiculously successful decade, their successes felt sick of the area and left for southern Bavaria instead. While this has been the case for many teams in Germany, Mönchengladbach was one of those who perhaps took it the hardest. They were like a yo-yo in the table for many years and it was really only in the beginning of the 21st century that they found some kind of stability as a club, even though they were relegated in 2007.
Since rising back to the European stage, every season has been a new challenge for the club as key players have left and coaches have departed during the course of the season and they have found themselves stranded with very little hope too many times, but their star manager Max Eberl has kept hem afloat, even though they should perhaps have been worse off. Last season was one of those seasons where everything looked good pre-season, but then things started to unfold and the team's fragile nature started to show. After a few horrific results star coach Lucien Favre left the club with no replacement in sight. Andre Schubert stepped in and it was actually expected that he would bring them back to life and that was exactly what he did and surprising Schubert somehow managed to bring them back to the Champions League.
This season, another challenge has presented itself as their captain Granit Xhaka as left the club. The midfielder was their attacking and defensive key and will be sorely missed. However, the "newcomer" Christoph Kramer will most certainly be able to replace him in astounding fashion. Together with Mahmoud Dahoud, Granit Xhaka excelled and the same might just happen with Kramer, having left Bayer Leverkusen due to Borussia being familiar and a grave lack of playing time at Leverkusen, a decision from Bayer's Roger Schmidt I, personally, will never be able to completely fathom. Schubert has played with a very neat backline of three defenders with Christensen and Jantschke being the keys. On the flanks the two wing-backs, Traoré and Wendt, have strolled. With this experimental tactic, Schubert has managed to surprise quite a few and it allows the midfield to get forward to help as there are always at least three at the back. This has also made their extensive and effective pressing possible as there are always players enough in midfield to cover the spaces, which in itself is one of the keys of gegenpress. Schubert's tactics was the main reason Gladbach managed to reach Europe last season, a feat I personally can see them redo, but they have to be resilient and stable throughout the whole campaign, because this season Bundesliga is stronger than it usually is, with at least seven teams able to fight for Champions League, plus an eventual surprise team.
Having fixed replacements for both Nordtveit and Xhaka and Vestergaard quickly will benefit them long-term as they will be able to implement these new acquisitions into their surprisingly well-worked system, something that will prove pivotal for their continued success.
Key player: Oscar Wendt.
No, this isn't just because he is a Swede, even though it does matter... He has been a star since he joined and is one of those players who never stops running. Really important for them and it showed last season as they struggled without his energetic and erratic sprinting along the left flank. Could have chosen Raffael, could have chosen Sommer, but we like the players who have gone unnoticed, hence Oscar wendt.
Surprise player: Nico Elvedi.
The Swiss almost-20 year-old centre back played 21 games last term and provided two assists. He was a real surprise last season and we could certainly see him getting more playing time.
Falk's prediction: 7th
Ali's prediction: 5th
Editor, traveller of Germany and avid admirer of Oscar Wendt.
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