Mönchengladbach - A very special anniversary is approaching for Borussia Mönchengladbach head coach Lucien Favre, as this Saturday marks four years to the day since he sat in the Foals' dugout for the first time.
Phoenix from the flames
In the 115-year history of the club, that may seem an insignificant period, but the years that have coincided with the Swiss' arrival have been anything but that.
When Favre took up the reins at the Borussia-Park on 14 February 2011, he was inheriting a team four points adrift of the relegation play-off place having just been beaten 3-1 by FC St. Pauli, their 14th defeat from 22 matches. In his first game in charge, the Foals overcame FC Schalke 04 2-1 and ended the season in 16th, sneaking into the play-off two points ahead of Eintracht Frankfurt.
In the two-legged tie that would determine their top-flight fate, Marco Reus scored the goal that spared the five-time champions from a second relegation from the top tier. Barely a year later, Favre had turned Reus into a German international and soon-to-be Bundesliga Player of the Year, while Gladbach had finished in a UEFA Champions League qualifying berth for the first time. The Saint-Barthelemy native also took the Foals to within a penalty shootout victory of the 2012 DFB Cup final.
While Pep Guardiola is a coach famed for possession football and Jürgen Klopp for a pressing game, Favre is less a tactical innovator than a coach of remarkable application and discipline, honing his knowledge relentlessly in his striving for perfection. His system - a well organised 4-4-2 with speed in transition, particularly on the wings - is simple and not necessarily the most innovative, but it is effective, exciting to watch and perfect for Borussia, a club with a tradition for playing entertaining football.
His approach of endlessly observing the opposition, practising his theories repeatedly on the training ground and making his players know their roles automatically is befitting a club such as Gladbach, who in recent seasons have had no shortage of adversity to overcome. Borussia's approach is to invest wisely and cut their own crystals. It is a mantra that fits perfectly with Favre's personality and is ideal for a team forged unmistakably in the coach’s own image.
A club legend
The Foals' most famous coach, Hennes Weisweiler, won , and while Favre is unlikely to emulate that haul, he is already worthy of mention in the same breath as his similarly revered predecessors Udo Lattek and Jupp Heynckes. If the 57-year-old stays in the job until the end of the season, which is looking extremely likely, he will have overtaken the aforementioned late Lattek, Hans Meyer and Bernd Krauss to go third on the club's list of longest-serving managers.
Meanwhile, the day that marks the beginning of his fifth year in charge is also the day Borussia host eternal rivals 1. FC Köln (kick-off Saturday 15:30 CET / 14:30 GMT). What better occasion could he have wished for to mark such impressive longevity?