Borussia Mönchengladbach midfielder Denis Zakaria has praised new coach Marco Rose for instilling new desire into the team that has taken the early lead in the Bundesliga.
The Foals hold a narrow lead at the head of a tight pack at the top end of the table, where just six points separate first and tenth after seven games. Zakaria has played a key role in that as the club’s only outfielder to play every minute of the campaign, but the Swiss string-puller has put it down to the impact of Rose.
“He came in with a new system, new determination,” the 22-year-old explained after his country’s UEFA European Championship qualifying loss in Denmark, where RB Leipzig’s Yussuf Poulsen scored the only goal of the game. “It’s not that we didn’t have a lack of desire before, but I don’t think we were at it enough.
“Now, with this new system, this new playing style, which is based more on pressing more, we have to be at it.”
Watch: Zakaria got on the scoresheet in the 5-1 thrashing of Augsburg
Rose, 43, arrived at Gladbach during the summer after two successful seasons in charge of Red Bull Salzburg in Austria.
For Zakaria, the former assistant to Thomas Tuchel at Mainz has shown belief in him to allow the midfielder to direct Gladbach’s play in his third full Bundesliga season since joining from Young Boys in 2017.
“It’s always important your coach has faith in you. I’ve played all the games since the start of the season, I’ve been in the team. As a player, that always helps you.” the 24-time Switzerland international explained. “I think he’s a great coach, I learn from him, and I’m really very happy to improve with him.”
Zakaria’s role in Rose’s side has been as the defensive-minded member of the midfield three, often alongside Christoph Kramer and Florian Neuhaus, but it’s also his passing ability (88 per cent pass completion in 2019/20) that allows Gladbach to flourish in attack with exciting young forwards Alassane Plea, Breel Embolo and Marcus Thuram.
Behind him, he protects the second-meanest defence in the league (six goals conceded) and goalkeeper Yann Sommer, who has kept a joint league-best three clean sheets.
Zakaria and his galloping Foals know they have a fight on their hands to remain in first place: “Being top of the Bundesliga is very, very tough. There are a lot of good teams so we’re focussing more on working and being prepared for each game.”
And they will have to be very prepared for their next match when they take on Borussia Dortmund at the Signal Iduna Park in the late kick-off on Saturday 19 October. If Gladbach want to extend their stay at the top beyond just one matchday, they know they will need to beat their fellow Borussias for the first time since April 2015.
It’s a true test of their title credentials and new-found desire to get a result at a ground where they have left emptyhanded in 15 of their last 18 Bundesliga visits.