The 2016-17 season marks the third straight year Borussia Monchengladbach have featured in European competition. However, the German club will hope this year’s Champions League experience goes far better than that of last season’s campaign.
Despite Gladbach’s fourth place finish in 2015-16, the club started the season in terrible form. The Foals lost their opening five fixtures of the season and scored just two goals while giving up 12. The Champions League didn’t start much better either as the club lost to Sevilla and Manchester City in their opening two matches.
By the end of September, Lucien Favre had left the club with the Foals in 18th place. Then something amazing happened, Gladbach went undefeated in their next 10 matches, going straight from 18th in the Bundesliga to fourth. The team was able to hold onto the last Champions League position thanks in part to a draw away at Bayern Munich before a win against rivals Bayer Leverkusen on the penultimate day of last season.
Worryingly, the Foals’ jaunt into this season’s Champions League playoff round has already nearly been a catastrophe. Playing Swiss side Young Boys, Gladbach spent large portions of the match playing sloppy football, no doubt hindered by the AstroTurf pitch used in Bern.
It took the Foals an offside goal that was never called to go in front, something the team didn’t look back from. Raffael’s deflected shot that was registered as an own goal two minutes later put things to bed. Although the scoreline flattered Gladbach slightly. The Germans now have the return leg at home to seal their passage to the group stage.
The fear now is that the team will get off to a similar start in this year’s Bundesliga as the one they suffered last term, especially with the added pressure of the Champions League again present. Andre Schubert has performed admirably since taking over the side after Favre’s departure, but the new boss should not forget how his players began last year’s campaign.
Schubert’s 3-4-3 formation that was on display in Bern enhanced the Foals attacking approach. Raffael and Thorgan Hazard were deployed on either side of Lars Stindl, giving both the chance to play in wide areas, but cut in towards the 18-yard box. Raffael’s deflected goal in the second half was brilliantly worked, as he flew in from the right flank to strike the cross that eventually ricocheted off of Alain Rochat and into the net.
The back three of Nico Elvedi, Andreas Christensen and Tony Jantschke also worked well together. It should be worrying, however, that Young Boys tallied five shots on target to Gladbach’s two. Perhaps more game time will help the Foals, and preparation time remains as the Bundesliga doesn’t kick-off until August 27th.
Understanding between players may be off due to Schubert’s deployment of new signing Tobias Strobl alongside Christoph Kramer in midfield. The team made a tidy sum by selling talisman Granit Xhaka to Arsenal this summer, and Strobl has his work cut out in order to fill Xhaka’s boots.
Despite Strobl being under pressure to adapt quickly, we predict Gladbach will be prepared better this season, and won’t repeat the early season woes of last year.
Although the team do play rivals Leverkusen to open at home before playing newly promoted Freiburg, if there is one difference between the Bundesliga and the rest of Europe’s top leagues, it is that teams can change their fortunes within a short amount of time. The Foals did just that last season, going from last to Champions League qualification in a matter of weeks. This term, the Foals will be looking for a much simpler year.