Mönchengladbach – The departure of Juan Arango will undoubtedly leave a void in the Borussia Mönchengladbach midfield next season. The Venezuelan's left foot was widely regarded as one of the most potent in the game, but the Foals have wasted no time in devising a plan for life after the 34-year-old.
Moving up a gear
FC Augsburg's Andre Hahn was officially the fastest player in the Bundesliga last season, reaching a maximum speed of 35.4 km/h. Fellow newcomers at Gladbach, Ibrahima Traore (VfB Stuttgart) and Fabian Johnson (1899 Hoffenheim), were not far off that blistering pace in 2013/14.
All three have been recruited to give more zip and zest to Gladbach's increasingly successful counterattacking game, and the prospect is mouth-watering. Renowned for playing without an out-and-out striker, but with several players pushing forward as a unit – Max Kruse and Raffael more centrally than the rest – coach Lucien Favre has put a finger on what his side needs to move up a level.
Increasing the speed by a notch will make the Foals even more difficult to handle when they hit at a canter. With only six goals coming from headers last season, it's clear that the Gladbach way is not to stick a tall man in attack and launch a series of long balls towards him, which is why Hahn in particular fits the profile drawn up to replace Arango.
The 23-year-old delivered 118 balls into the box for Augsburg last season – more than anybody else in the league. Traore sent in 96, in spite of Stuttgart's struggles, while Johnson may only have crossed the ball 30 times, but that is still three more than Patrick Herrmann, who can perhaps focus more on finishing with his new partners in crime acting as perfect decoys.
So how can Favre accommodate so many similarly adept wide men? "I've got something in mind for every style of play," the Swiss tactician told Der Spiegel magazine. "We can't just say that Gladbach are dangerous on the break, or that they play a brand of football which is based on possession – we try to command all of these styles and then choose the right approach depending on the situation."
For that, Favre needs not only pace, but all-round technically-gifted, tenacious players who also have an eye for a killer ball. Last season, they weren't far off perfecting the latter with a highly impressive 83 per cent passing accuracy, topped only by FC Bayern München. Hahn in particular still needs to improve in this area, having misplaced almost 43 per cent of his passes last season.
Nevertheless, according to the Foals' director of sport Max Eberl, the new recruit is "one of the most potent wingers in the Bundesliga." With 12 goals and eight assists, he bettered the marks of both Arango (eight goals, five assists) and Herrmann (six plus eight) last season.
The chopping and changing is unlikely to cause Favre much of a headache. Herrmann went the full distance in only five matches last season, with Favre a fan of strategic substitutions. That may also explain why Gladbach scored a league-high 25 per cent of goals after the hour mark – when the fresh legs sent on started to kick in. Favre now has more of those fresh – and fast – legs to launch at opposition defenders, and Gladbach will be chomping at the bit in the starting gate next season.