Sporting Director Max Eberl’s decision last summer to take Borussia Mönchengladbach in a new direction was an unorthodox one especially after previous coach Dieter Hecking had just steered them to a 5th place finish and Europa League qualification. Eberl however saw a new coach with a new way of doing things as necessary and sitting in his office at the end of the season, he can be very happy that he was proved right.
Marco Rose, in his first season in the Bundesliga after previously coaching Red Bull Salzburg, impressed hugely with his style of football and the Foals went one better that last season finishing 4th and claiming a Champions League berth.
Only taking one point from their opening two home games (a draw with Schalke and a loss to Leipzig) didn’t indicate what was to come, but they then went on a rune of seven wins in their next eight matches with only a 1-0 defeat at the Signal Iduna Park interrupting their perfect sequence.
The signs that something special was afoot came on matchday 14 when Gladbach took a richly deserved three points from their clash with champions Bayern. Two goals from Ramy Bensebaini including an injury time winning penalty saw off the Bavarians and at the end of the weekend, they were sitting pretty at the top of the league table.
A loss to Wolfsburg and a goalless draw with Hertha Berlin meant that RB Leipzig took the crown of Herbstmeister, but Marco Rose’s exciting attacking side were very much in the mix. The Austrian coach has utilised the players he inherited and played to their strengths, while also incorporating the talents of summer arrivals Marcus Thuram, Breel Embolo, Stefan Lainer and Ramy Bensebaini.
Losing to Schalke in the first game back after the Winterpause wasn’t the ideal start (especially as that was to be the Königsblauen’s only win for the rest of the season). They then won four, drew two and lost one (again to Dortmund) in the seven games played before the corona virus shutdown.
In the nine games played after the resumption of football in Germany, it became clear that Gladbach were involved in a two-horse race with Bayer Leverkusen to finish fourth and claim the much-wanted Champions League ticket. Losing 3-1 at home to the Werkself on matchday 27 and only drawing 0-0 with a struggling Werder Bremen side was a blow, but a wobble from Leverkusen and a run of three wins to end the season saw Gladbach finish two points ahead of them and claim the prize.
Max Eberl was therefore fully justified in choosing Marco Rose to take the club to the next level, and also very successful in bringing in the correct players last summer as it impossible to deem any of the arrivals as anything other than an unbridled success.
Their home form was also a key factor this season with 12 wins notched up at the Borussia Park. They picked up 38 of their points at home which was a record only bettered by champions Bayern (41 points). They also scored 61% of their season goals at home meaning visitors to the Borussia Park were always in for a tough day.
“Qualifying for the Champions League is a very special moment for this club,” said Rose after the win over Hertha on the final day. “I am incredibly proud of the boys and the club and am delighted for everyone whose heart beats for Gladbach.”
With such a successful season there were highlights aplenty. Topping the table between matchdays 7 and 14 certainly made people sit up and take notice of Gladbach. The 5-1 win over Augsburg on matchday 7 stands out with an awesome attacking display seeing them 3-0 up inside the first 15 minutes.
The matchday 14 win over Bayern was obviously a high point as was doing the double over both Rhineland rivals Köln and Fortuna Düsseldorf. The Geißböcke were beaten 1-0 away and 2-1 and home, while Fortuna were beaten 2-1 at the Borussia Park and then demolished 4-1 at the Merkur Spielarena
The three matches with Borussia Dortmund all ended in defeat for Gladbach with a 1-0 away loss and a 2-1 home defeat added to with elimination from the DFB Pokal in the second round. Being the only club to lose to Schalke in the Rückrunde was a slight embarrassment.
Mönchengladbach’s two lowest points however came in the Europa League. Losing 4-1 at home to Austrian side Wolfsberger AC saw them make a poor start to their group stage campaign and a second home loss to Turkish side Basaksehir (with a last-minute winner) saw them fail to progress out of the group.
Tale of the Tape
Record: 20-5-9, 65 points (1.91 per game), 4th in Bundesliga
Home Record: 38 points (12-2-3) Away Record: 27 points (8-3-6)
Goals: 66 (1.94 per game), Goals Against: 40 (1.18 per game), Diff: 26
xG: 68.8, xGA: 44.2, Diff: 24.6
The Foals scored 66 goals giving them an average of 1.94 per game, which represented an increase of eleven on the previous season. Marcus Thuram and Alassane Plea were the joint top scorers with ten goals apiece with Breel Embolo scoring eight. Lars Stindl scored nine Bundesliga goals from his 25 appearances (14 as a starter). Patrick Hermann added six with six assists, while Jonas Hofmann scored five.
With 39.7% of their shots on target, Gladbach ranked second overall in the league. Marcus Thuram’s 39 shots on target put him fourth overall in the league.
Yann Sommer once again ranked as one of the best goalkeepers in the Bundesliga making more saves than any other keeper (110). Marco Rose preferred to use a back four with Matthias Ginter and Nico Elvedi the first- choice pairing in the centre and Tony Jantschke filling in. There was plenty of options at fullback with Oskar Wendt facing competition from newcomer Ramy Bensebaini on the left and Stefan Lainer missing just three games on the right.
Lainer ranked 7th overall in the league for pressures made in the defensive third, while Nico Elvedi ranked 3rd overall for interceptions (65). He also was the Bundesliga’s third best passer with 92.2% pass completion rate.
Only David Alaba and Joshua Kimmich had a better progressive distance score than Matthias Ginter, while Bensebaini chipped in with five goals and three assists.
While the strikers gained most of the plaudits, it was Denis Zakaria who took his game to the next level this season. A knee injury kept him out for ten games from March, but the 22-year-old Swiss midfielder made 22 starts and ranked 2nd overall in the league for tackles made (54) and he ranked joint second for tackles made in the midfield third (37).
Florian Neuhaus notched up the most minutes this season with 2618 minutes scoring four times and providing two assists in the process. Christoph Kramer continued to provide experience and quality when called upon, whereas Laszlo Benes had a rather disappointing season.
Another big plus was the long-awaited debut of Mamadou Doucouré four years after joining the club. “It was sensational! I think I was the happiest person in the world at that moment” Doucouré explained on making his debut against Union Berlin. “I worked towards this day for a very long time, almost four years. Even if it was a game without spectators, it was a great, magical feeling that I will never forget in my whole life.”
Like the appointment of trainer Marco Rose, the transfer policy from Max Eberl was a great success. You would be hard pushed to find another Bundesliga side that had a better transfer window in the summer in terms of impact made and value for money. Stefan Lainer was the most expensive purchase at €12.5 million from Red Bull Salzburg and Marco Rose certainly knew what he was getting with the right back.
Breel Embolo enjoyed a new lease of life at Gladbach following his €11 million move from Schalke. He was once again amongst the goals- scoring eight and laying on five assists.
Marcus Thuram was an absolute steal at just €9 million from French side EA Guingamp, while the other player purchased from Ligue 1 Ramy Bensebaini looks like the heir apparent to Oskar Wendt and contributed some vital goals- none more so than the two that downed Bayern in the Hinrunde.
Player of the Season
Marcus Thuram arrived from France labelled as the ‘son of Lilian Thuram’ but after the season he just had, he is very much being talked about as a player in his own right. Whether playing wide on the left or as a main striker, the youngster excelled this season scoring ten goals and providing eight assists.
Strong aerially, he ranked 3rd in the Bundesliga for aerial duels won. He reserved some of his best performances for the bigger sides showing his confidence and maturity at just 22.
Bringing in Marco Rose was a masterstroke, the summer transfers all worked out brilliantly and aside from a disappointing European campaign, the season went very well for the club. The brand of football on display was both exciting, produced goals and got results.
The only downside would be the attention brought to the likes of Rose, Thuram et al with ‘bigger’ clubs already keeping tabs on them for the future. As it is though, the present is very bright.