Mönchengladbach - Matchday 11’s remarkable 1-0 defeat against Borussia Dortmund may have closed the chapter on Borussia Mönchengladbach’s club-record 18-game winning streak, but if more pages are to be added to the Foals’ storied history books, how they respond could ultimately prove the defining measure of their progress under head coach Lucien Favre.
Favre dons superhero cape
It was the Swiss tactician’s 200th top-flight encounter as a Bundesliga head coach, but it is in the 125-game span spent with Gladbach that Favre has flourished and it appears 2014/15 could be the campaign in which his masterplan comes to fruition.
After assuming the role of head coach in February 2011 following a 3-1 loss to FC St. Pauli that had left them three points adrift at the foot of the table, Favre not only steered Gladbach to safety but got the club to buy into a vision of restoring the five-time Bundesliga champions to a standing befitting of their former glories. It was a vision that has seen the 57-year-old put Borussia near the forefront of a tactical renaissance in Germany’s top flight and established themselves as genuine contenders.
After all it was just two seasons ago, following their miraculous survival plight, that a side featuring among other Marco Reus, Dante and Roman Neustädter, became the first beneficiaries of the Bundesliga's improved UEFA coefficient by claiming the final UEFA Champions League spot - the Foals' best league finish since 1996. As impressive as that was, the difference now is that Gladbach have the pieces in place and an eye-catching brand of football capable of sustaining a challenge at the Bundesliga summit.
Steps in the right direction
Rewind eight months to the build-up ahead of their last trip to Dortmund though, and the picture their performances painted was of great contrast to their form in the current campaign. Having occupied a top-four spot during the winter break, the Foals were in the midst of a nine-game winless streak that had seen them slip as low as eighth.
It was a barren spell that underlined their status as a ‘work in progress’ before the
2-1 win over BVB on that occasion sparked a run of form that produced ten wins, six draws and only three losses before last weekend. Meanwhile, it provided the first indicator that Gladbach were nearing the finished product of a long-term plan designed to establish success and sustainability within the confines of their means.
“Know what needs to be done”
Christoph Kramer’s calamitous own goal may have brought an end to an exceptional purple, whilst preventing the Foals from taking points off of both Bayern and Borussia Dortmund within two weeks of one another, but in the words of Max Kruse the Foals “were never going to go the whole season unbeaten”.
The defeat instead offers Gladbach the chance to show how far they’ve progressed. “I’m not at all concerned about us suffering a slump in form,” said Yann Sommer, a standout summer addition to compliment those of fully-fledged internationals Fabian Johnson, Ibrahima Traore and Andre Hahn. “We’ve always maintained that we’ve got enough to work on ourselves. We know what needs to be done. We’ve got to put it behind us and move on.”
Sustainability breeds success
At the midway stage of last season with Gladbach sitting in third, sporting director Max Eberl claimed his side were “far exceeding our expectations”. While statements like that are often used to temper expectancy, with his side occupying the same league position at present, it’s worth noting that Eberl’s stance, like that of the club, has changed: “Despite what happened [against Dortmund], we’ve done a lot of good things this season and deserve to be third in the table.”
Following Matchday 10’s 3-1 win over Hoffenheim, Patrick Herrmann claimed “it could be a great season for Gladbach", and although thedefeat in Dortmund has taken the gloss of a flawless start to the 2014/15 campaign, they remain the determinants of their own fate.
Sommer and Co. continue to declare that they “haven’t talked about titles or Europe”, but with Dortmund, Bayer 04 Leverkusen and FC Schalke 04 all majorly underachieving this term, Gladbach are primed to seize the opportunity of a top-four finish. Should they do so, it would represent a final realisation of Favre’s vision and a return to their rightful place amongst the Bundesliga’s best.