FEATURE | Borussia Mönchengladbach: A club split in two

Borussia Mönchengladbach are an institution of German football. After their first promotion to the Bundesliga in 1965, Gladbach would take domestic and international football by storm in the 1970s. Five Bundesliga titles, two UEFA Cup triumphs, one DFB-Pokal, as well as becoming European Cup runners-up; the 1970s was the decade of the Foals.

However, as quickly as they had turned into Bayern Munich’s betters, they would soon succumb to their dominance. Since the 1970s only the 1995 DFB-Pokal has been lifted, with the club facing more relegations than silverware. The last decade has been the closest The Foals have been to becoming a strong force in German football. Consistent European adventures had become the norm once again. Even if they could not challenge Bayern for the league, they knew they always had their number twice a season.

Nevertheless, with Gladbach currently sitting 11th in the league, this season would become their third consecutive campaign without finishing in a European place. On top of this – unlike the last two campaigns – Gladbach have acknowledged that several stars will have to leave this summer. Performances have been subpar, and the fans’ frustrations have been on full display.

Boos have heckled around Borussia Park while after the defeat to VfB Stuttgart on matchday 29, the fans turned their back in the away end at full time. The Gladbach faithful want positive change, meaning the departure of head coach Daniel Farke. The Gladbach board had ensured Farke that he will remain next term, however, another tasteless performance away at Borussia Dortmund on matchday 32 has left his job on the line a week after his assurance. The dark times have returned to the North Rhine-Westphalia and where Gladbach go from here is anybody’s guess. But what has gone fundamentally wrong?

Daniel Farke’s side have been uninspiring

Daniel Farke had certainly garnered a reputation for playing exciting attacking football at Norwich City. He placed his faith in the young players at the club and was rewarded twice with promotion to the Premier League. However, upon Farke’s dismissal during his second stint in England’s top flight, it had become obvious that the identity that once was so clear to see had been lost. Instead, the Canaries embodied an unorganised mess of players disconnected from one another. This would be the best way to describe the football on show at Borussia-Park this campaign.

While the results have not been completely hopeless – one can does not forget the 3-2 victory over Bayern – the underlying statistics speak for themselves. Farke’s side currently complete the fourth most passes in the league; only the top three have completed more. However, while Bayern, Dortmund and RB Leipzig find themselves in the top three for most progressive passes and the most progressive passes into the final third; Gladbach sit 12th in both metrics. Their inability to progress the ball up the pitch and apply pressure on their opponents is highlighted by their possession stats. No other Bundesliga club takes more touches in the defensive third. Whilst, the top three in the league take the most touches in the attacking third, Gladbach rank 14th

Their use of possession this season has been significantly poor, leaving the fans with little choice but to display their frustrations on ‘Farke-ball’. Nevertheless, their out-of-possession stats further highlight why they are an unorganised mess. Once again, only Bayern, Dortmund and RB Leipzig allow the opposition fewer touches than Gladbach. However, while the top three also allow the fewest touches in their defensive third, Farke’s side allow the fourth most. A horrendous disparity that signifies why the Foals find themselves in the middle of the table – and in truth – they are fortunate to not be lower in the league.

Gladbach’s top stars are departing

The reason Gladbach can count themselves lucky to not be embroiled in the current relegation battle is due to a handful of talented players. Marcus Thuram is currently experiencing his most prolific season in a Gladbach shirt. The French international has found the back of the net 13 times in the Bundesliga so far this season, eclipsing his 10 goals from the 2019/20 campaign.

However, Thuram has heralded interest from some of Europe’s finest clubs. There were consistent claims in January that Chelsea were fond of The Foals marksman, but he decided to continue his development in Gladbach. With his contract running out in the summer, the interest will once again be rife, and replacing him will be difficult for a Gladbach side unable to offer European football.

Additionally, Die Fohlen will be losing their influential captain Lars Stindl when his contract expires in the summer. He has been a mainstay in the Gladbach midfield since his arrival from Hannover in 2015. Ramy Bensebaini is the final player leaving on a free in the summer. He has been an integral part of this side over the last few years, and with interest from Borussia Dortmund, the Algerian international will be looking for a step up in his career.

This exodus of players is without mentioning Manu Kone, who has arguably been Gladbach’s best player this season. His departure looks imminent, replacing such a significant group of players will be difficult for a Gladbach side with little direction. Losing key players is difficult, but losing nearly all of them could be disastrous for the club.

The loss of Max Eberl has been and will continue to be felt

Nevertheless, the biggest loss for Borussia Mönchengladbach will be felt in the sporting director role. Max Eberl departed Gladbach after 14 years of service where he ushered in the likes of Marco Reus, Marc-Andre ter Stegen and Kone himself. With Eberl taking the opportunity of sporting director at RB Leipzig, it is believed he will target Kone in the upcoming summer transfer window.

While losing a star player to a league rival will be a bitter pill for the Gladbach faithful to swallow, losing him to the man that signed him for their club will hurt even more. The effects of Eberl’s exit have, however, already began to be felt. Since Eberl’s first season as sporting director, until the 2020/21 Bundesliga campaign, Die Fohlen had managed to average 52 points a season.

However, this year, with just two league games remaining, they sit on a disappointing 39 points. It is a drop-off that reflects a side regressing off the pitch, and quite noticeably on it. The feeling of development that Eberl had installed into Gladbach had been one almost reminiscent of their 1970s self. The identity of Die Fohlen had returned. However, it is clear to see that that is no longer apparent. Instead, they now represent their miserable past, and one must begin to question the direction the club are going in.

GGFN | Will Shopland

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