In the Foals’ four games so far this season, 18 goals have fallen, ten for Borussia and eight for their opponents. Coach Lucien Favre may not be too pleased with his side being breached so easily, but as a spectacle, Gladbach's games are irresistible.
Two attacking newcomers, and , have undoubtedly played their part and have made such an impression that there is once again talk of a “Fantastic Four” in Borussia’s attack. That moniker was given to Juan Arango, Mike Hanke, Marco Reus and Patrick Herrmann two years ago when the quartet tore up the Bundesliga with their attacking interplay.
With Hanke and Reus having moved on, Kruse and Raffael appear to be stepping up rather nicely. The latter is creating a wealth of chances and doing precisely what Favre recruited him for. “He does so much right,” said the Swiss tactician. “He keeps things simple, and it’s not easy to play simply.”
Room for improvement
All four have scored already this season, accounting for six of Gladbach’s ten goals, yet, tantilisingly, they still believe there is more to come. “We don't have a perfect understanding yet,” said Herrmann. “But it’s getting better all the time."
Kruse, who has been called up to the Germany squad once again, struck a similar chord. “I had to fight my way into the game after giving the ball away a bit cheaply on two occasions in the first half,” he said. “That makes it all the more satisfying that I was able to score, but there’s still room for improvement.”
Finding a balance
That much was clear in the side's two defeats this season, when they were caught out too easily in a 4-2 defeat against Bayer 04 Leverkusen, and on the opening day of the season at Bayern. "We lost both those games, but they are top teams in the Bundesliga," Herrmann said. "Even so, we didn't play too badly."
With Gladbach still working on balancing their attacking instincts with their defensive responsibilities, it will be intriguing to see how they fare against next opponents Hoffenheim. "It's going to be a tough game, but we always play to win," said Herrmann. "We've not made reaching Europe out to be a goal we desperately want, but we have the quality to make it, and that's what we're going to try to do." With a new Fantastic Four, you wouldn't want to bet against it.
Tobias Gonscherowski / Ben Gladwell