On the back of an excellent 2014-15 season, Borussia Monchengladbach were widely tipped to build on their success under Lucien Favre. However, much to the surprise of Gladbach’s faithful and admirers, they got off to a dismal start leading to the resignation of Favre. Alex Blinston looks at their resurgence with Andre Schubert at the helm.
After winning his first three games as ‘Gladbach boss Andre Schubert said, “Football’s a simple game.” Well, the 44-year-old is certainly making it look that way. After taking the helm at Gladbach in a time of turmoil, Schubert has turned the tide, and a Gladbach side that had looked disconsolate at the start of the season are back to their ebullient best.
September 21st was one of the most significant of Borussia Monchengladbach’s recent history; a day, that in the words of ‘Gladbach’s sporting director Max Eberl, “shook us to the core,” as Lucien Favre departed the club. It was supposed to be the season that saw ‘Gladbach return to their former glory as they embarked on their first Champions League adventure since its reform in 1992. However, after five Bundesliga games that resulted in zero points, Favre had lost confidence in his own abilities to lead ‘Gladbach out of the mess with his statement reading, “It is now the time and make the best decision for the club and the team, to bring about a change.” It was certainly a case of the, ‘it’s not you it’s me’ breakup with The Foals doing all they could to dissuade Favre, but unlike many that happened in the school playground, this one was actually true.
When Favre’s resignation was reluctantly – to say the least – accepted by Eberl and co. Schubert was identified as little more than a stop-gap. There were rumours of Guingamp’s Jocelyn Gourvennec and starry-eyed calls from the Borussia-Park faithful for club icon Jupp Heynckes and the then unemployed Jurgen Klopp, however, just two months on from Favre’s resignation there is only one man on the fans lips in the Rhine city: Andre Schubert.
Lucien Favre was studious and meticulous in his approach and for all of his tremendous qualities, of which there are many, his obsession with precision can become overwhelming. The persistent pausing of training to identify positional faults to the finest margin can eventually become tedious for players. While, Schubert hasn’t loosened the reigns to the extent that we are seeing ‘heavy-metal football’, Gladbach have strayed away from Favre’s precise orchestra, with Schubert making small tweaks that has seen The Foals return to their direct, attacking best.
Under Schubert, ‘Gladbach are playing with freedom that was seemingly absent at the start of the season. ‘Gladbach rank 5th in terms of possession per game (53.9%) and Schubert’s side are 3rd in terms of short passes per game (496). However, only 22% of BMG’s play come in the opposition half – this ranks bottom alongside Hertha Berlin and Cologne in the Bundesliga – which only emphasises the pace that has been injected in to their game, as in Schubert’s seven league games in charge The Foals have recorded 21 goals.
Nobody epitomizes the uplift in ‘Gladbach’s form more than Raffael. At the start of the campaign the Brazilian looked lackadaisical and absent of the talent that had yielded 27 goals and nine assists in the previous two Bundesliga campaigns. Schubert’s appointment has breathed new life in to Raffael and he has now accrued five goals and six assists in the league hitherto.
The loss of partner in crime Max Kruse to Wolfsburg was a hammer blow; Kruse lead The Foals in key passes per game (2.4) and assists last term (9) and he epitomized Favre’s ‘Gladbach side. The acquisition of Josip Drmic from Bayer Leverkusen was seen as a real coup but with his showings proving to be as lacklustre with ‘Gladbach as they were at the BayArena, it is Lars Stindl who has established himself as Raffael’s strike partner. He is certainly more of an attacking midfielder, of that there is little doubt, but in a 4-4-2 system where tireless work rate is of great importance, he fits the bill perfectly.
Although the BMG squad isn’t as deep as their rivals, it still offers Schubert great versatility. Few can boast to match ‘Gladbach’s quality in wide areas with neither Andre Hahn nor Patrick Herrmann featuring regularly this season due to injury, Fabian Johnson and Ibrahima Traore have been filling in on the flanks. German-Syrian midfielder Mahmoud Dahoud has been a revelation this term and alongside newly appointed captain Granit Xhaka, who is bound for stardom, The Foals have a formidable midfield tandem. Defensive injuries could have been the derailing of Monchengladbach’s progression under Schubert with Martin Stranzl, Tony Jantschke and Julian Korb all sidelined. However, clean sheets against Wolfsburg, Juventus, Schalke in the DFB Pokal and most recently against Ingolstadt have showcased that ‘Gladbach have defensive steel even without key players.
The recent 0-0 stalemate at home to Ingolstadt marked the end of a six game winning streak in the Bundesliga with Schubert in charge and The Foals now occupy a Europa League spot. When drawn in to the perennial Champions League ‘group of death’ alongside Juventus, Manchester City and Sevilla, progression to the knockout phase never looked likely but the 3rd place that would see ‘Gladbach transfer to the Europa League is well within reach.
When asked whether he was seeking the top job in Monchengladbach, Schubert said, “I really do not mind. I want a job that makes me happy.” While Max Eberl may have initially identified Schubert as a stop-gap, all the signs are that Schubert is here to stay, with Eberl recently saying, “We are not in contract negotiations with any other coaches.” Andre Schubert said that in the managerial business everyone is an ‘interim’ coach, however, with Monchengladbach now well placed in 6th after a miraculous turnaround, there looks to be longevity to the Schubert-Gladbach love affair.
Written by Alex Blinston
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