Sometimes you just have to accept that you don’t fit into a trainer’s plans and take it on the chin that you are going to be a bit part player. That’s what largely happened last season to World Cup winner Christoph Kramer with then-Borussia Mönchengladbach coach Adi Hütter not favouring the 31-year-old midfielder.
Last season he was limited to just seven starts and seemed to be forgotten man at the Borussia Park, but with a change in coach has come a change in fortunes for the midfielder, known to many as the player, who forgot he was playing in the World Cup final.
This season under new trainer Daniel Farke, Kramer has been an ever-present in the team and shown his versatility by occupying a number of roles as required. Ko Itakura was initially signed as a defensive midfielder from Manchester City after impressing on loan at Schalke, but the decision to pair him with Nico Elvedi in the centre of the Foals back four has proved inspired. He has excelled there opening up a spot in the double-six position in Farke’s preferred 4-2-3-1 formation.
The opening five matches saw him develop a good understanding with Manu Koné as the pair sat in front of the defence as a shield (with Koné given more license to roam). In Lars Stindl’s absence Florian Neuhaus has occupied the number ten role in the middle of the attacking three behind Alassane Plea.
Prior to the start of the season, it was far from obvious that Kramer was going to play such a prominent role, but circumstances have arranged themselves to give him the game time and he is showing that experience and desire go a long way in football.
Speaking before the season he said he just hoped to return to enjoying football. “Personally, I’d like to start enjoy playing football again. It’s certainly not easy to move on from a season like last season. I want to give it my all once again, like I do every year, and then I’m sure that my performances be strong.
“Despite that, the most important thing to me is that I’m enjoying my football, and although it’s tough at the minute, I’m really having a lot of fun. Hard work and fun don’t need to be two separate things, and so I’m delighted that everything’s gone the way it has so far.”
The signing of Julian Weigl on loan from Benfica has also not interrupted Kramer’s importance to the team, eve though Farke opted to pair Weigl and Koné as his central midfield pairing against Freiburg. Suspension to Itakura (and now a subsequent injury) and injuries to both Elvedi and Tony Jantschke meant that the coach had a defensive headache ahead of the trip to the Black Forest last weekend.
Up stepped Kramer to partner Marvin Friedrich in defence and they helped keep a clean sheet in a goalless draw at the Europa Park against the high-flying Breisgauer. Fans on the various club sites voted him their Man of the Match and the player himself was happy with the performance as a centre back.
“I think the organisation between the back-four was good” Kramer said after. “If you can play holding midfield, I think that you can play centre-back too. I think we were strong up until the 65th minute. We had the game under control, and it felt like we were on top.”
Farke has made it clear however that despite the positive display the ‘six’ position is where Kramer belongs- at least until “he gets too old.” He’s not old yet, but he is experienced, and he is enjoying his football again.