If you imagined yourself walking backwards along a travelator, that would be the feeling summed up by Borussia Mönchengladbach’s season this year. A lot of effort just to get nowhere and basically end up where you were before. The fact that coach Daniel Farke and the club parted ways at the end of the season is also an indicator of a frustrating campaign.
Parting company with Adi Hütter after one season following a tenth place finish, the Foals turned to former Norwich City trainer Daniel Farke with the hope that he could get more out of a talented squad (on paper) and start to take the club forward.
Winning two of their opening three matches and then securing a 1-1 draw against a rampant Bayern was far from a bad start. A first defeat followed to Mainz on matchday five, but RB Leipzig were put to the sword 3-0 in the next game. An abysmal defensive display at the Weser Stadion saw them beaten 5-1 and despite responding with a 5-2 win in the derby with Köln, the fans were losing patience with the style of football and the lack of any consistency.
There were three defeats before the Winterpause, but they did end the year with a 4-2 win over Borussia Dortmund to sit eighth in the table going into the mid-season interval. The New Year however started with three losses in the first five games (Leverkusen, Augsburg, Hertha Berlin),and just one win against Hoffenheim (their only away win of the entire season). Matchday 21 then saw a deserved 3-2 win at home to Bayern Munich highlighting the inconsistency. They could lose to a hapless Hertha side, but beat the reigning champions!
The Bayern win was followed by five matches without a win and defeats to both Mainz and RB Leipzig. The season has petered out into a situation where the Foals were safe from any relegation worries, but also not in with a chance to play for Europe, so mid-table obscurity was the watchword.
By the time they lost 5-2 to Dortmund on matchday 32 at the Signal Iduna Park, the fans had had enough and made their feelings perfectly clear by turning their backs on the game and chanting they’d ‘had enough’.
In the end Gladbach finished tenth (like the previous season), but with two fewer points tan under Adi Hütter. The summer departures of Lars Stindl, Alassane Plea, Ramy Bensebaini and potentially Manu Koné didn’t help the air of pessimism and with progress not being made, Farke was informed his services wouldn’t be required next season with the club bringing in ex-Leverkusen coach Gerardo Seoane.
Despite an underwhelming season, there were quite a few highlights to at least show what could be achieved with these players. The win over Bayern Munich on matchday 21 was a high point and they also beat Borussia Dortmund and RB Leipzig this season. That’s all of the top three beaten!
The 5-2 Rheinderby victory over Köln in the Hinrunde gave the fans something the cheer, while Yann Sommer’s outstanding display against Bayern on matchday four, where he made a record-breaking 19 saves to deny the Bavarians was also a moment to remember.
The 5-1 defeat at the Weser Stadion on matchday eight saw a display of defending that would be more at home in the Regionalliga rather than the Bundesliga while the Hinrunde also saw a second round elimination from the Pokal at the hands of 2.Liga side Darmstatdt.
The fact that Gladbach only won once this season away from the Borussia Park was a low making them the only team not to win more than one on the road. The 5-2 loss at Dortmund towards the end of the season was another poor performance that drew the understandable ire of the fans.
Tale of the Tape
Record: 11-10-13, 43 points (1.26 per game), 10th in Bundesliga
Home Record: 33 points (10-3-4) Away Record: 10 points (1-7-9)
Goals: 52 (1.53 per game), Goals Against: 55 (1.62 per game), Diff: -3
xG: 52.1, xGA: 53.4, Diff: -1.3
Marcus Thuram was the spearhead in attack and finished as the club’s top scorer with thirteen goals and six assists. Alassane Plea’s twenty starts (29 appearances) netted him a disappointing two goals for the season, while Patrik Hermann scored once from his 21 substitute appearances. The reliance on Thuram was obvious, which spells bad news with his imminent departure from the club.
The Foals actually led the Bundesliga for shot percentage on target (41.2%), but were only tenth for total shots.
The season was a tale of two goalkeepers with Jonas Omlin being drafted in the replace Bayern-bound Yann Sommer. Sommer conceded 14 with Omlin letting in 18. Both Tobias Sippel and Jan Olschowsky got game time with an injury crisis hitting.
The back four was fairly settled with Nico Elvedi and Ko Itakura building a new central partnership following the departure of Mathias Ginter with Joe Scally and Ramy Bensebaini as the fullbacks. Luca Netz gained increased experience, while Marvin Friedrich was underused and voiced his dissatisfaction in public.
The back line was actually tighter than the previous season where 61 goals were conceded (this season 55). Nico Elvedi actually led the league in terms of pass completion (91.5%) and Ko Itakura was third behind Mathijs de Ligt. Gladbach ranked fourth for tackles in the defensive third, but second bottom for interceptions.
Manu Koné, Cristoph Kramer and Julian Weigl were the defensive base of the midfield, although Kramer at times was pushed into a less familiar position further forward. Jonas Hofmann provided the main attacking impetus with twelves goals and nine assists across the season. Captain Lars Stindl returned from injury in his final season to score eight goals and provide seven assists.
Florian Neuhaus had his injuries to contend with and was limited to just sixteen starts, while both Hannes Wolf and Nathan Ngoumou were largely used from the bench as impact subs.
Borussia actually ranked bottom of the Bundesliga for tackles in the midfield third, but in terms of possession in the midfield third ranked sixth overall.
There wasn’t a great deal of transfer dealing completed last summer with just a few additions to the squad. Nathan Ngoumou was signed for €8 million from Toulouse. Ko Itakura came in for a bargain €5 million after impressing on loan at Schalke in the 2.Bundesliga. The Frenchman had to wait for his chances, but the Japanese impressed right from the start in the centre of defence.
Central midfielder Oscar Fraulo arrived from Danish side FC Midtjylland for €2 million, but only appeared for a total of eight minutes across two brief substitute cameos. Julian Weigl was signed on an initial loan from Benfica to add quality to the midfield area.
The sale of Yann Sommer in January meant a new goalkeeper was needed and the club turned to his Swiss compatriot Jonas Omlin, who cost €9 million from Montpellier in France. He settled in instantly to at least soften the blow of losing their long-standing keeper.
Player of the Season
Borussia Mönchengladbach are certainly going to miss Marcus Thuram when he leaves in the summer. He was the only regular source of goals in the frontline and played himself into the French World Cup squad. His time at the Borussia Park is sadly up as he needs a ‘bigger’ challenge and the mediocrity of the past two seasons did little to persuade him that a new deal with the Foals was an attractive proposition.
Nathan Ngoumou was the big signing of the summer, but he had to wait for his chances this season. He made twenty appearances, but just seven starts and scored his debut Bundesliga goal in the 2-0 win over VfL Wolfsburg on matchday 27. With all the departures this summer, the 23-year-old will be looking to gain more starts next season and build upon a positive start.
On the plus side, Borussia beat all the top three this season and their home form was good enough to see them finish as the sixth best team at home. Unfortunately, their away form was non-existent and they won just once putting them as the third-worst team in the league with just ten points picked up. When you consider the quality of some of the players, another mid-table finish of tenth is far from what they could/ should have achieved. Must do better!