Despite an injury crisis, Borussia Mönchengladbach notched some eye-catching results in the first half of the 2017/18 season, even if Dieter Hecking's Foals still have room for improvement.
Story so far ...
It has been an inconsistent Hinrunde from Gladbach, although that is in large part down to the club's lengthy injury list.
Hecking has been without 10 first-team regulars at various points, including goalkeeper Yann Sommer, 2014 FIFA World Cup winner Christoph Kramer and USA international Fabian Johnson.
Watch: bundesliga.com met Thorgan Hazard upon his arrival at Gladbach back in 2014...
Even with a packed treatment room at the Borussia Park, there have been some notable wins en route to Gladbach's current sixth place in the standings. A 3-1 victory at Hoffenheim in October made the Foals the first side to win in Sinsheim in almost 18 months, while Hecking's troops also inflicted Jupp Heynckes' only defeat since taking over as Bayern Munich coach.
There were, though, some concerning results, underlining a mental fragility within the ranks. Gladbach collapsed to a 6-1 defeat at Borussia Dortmund on Matchday 6, and lost 5-1 at home to Bayer Leverkusen three Matchdays later. Those results, as well as a DFB Cup exit to Leverkusen, mean that there remains room for improvement for Hecking's troops.
Watch: Gladbach inflicted Heynckes' first defeat since returning as Bayern coach on Matchday 13
Thorgan Hazard has been Gladbach's standout player so far this season and with six Bundesliga goals, the Belgian is the club's joint top scorer along with Raffael. Unerring from the penalty spot and a constant threat from open play, Hazard the younger is beginning to step out of his brother's shadow and emerge as a bona fide star.
There have been plenty of encouraging signs for Gladbach in the first half of the season, not least the promising new centre-back pairing of Matthias Ginter and Jannik Vestergaard, both of whom have chipped in with three goals.
Raffael has impressed in fits and starts, but the injury crisis has allowed several youngsters to seize their opportunities in defence and midfield: Reece Oxford, Denis Zakaria and Michael Cuisance have all enhanced their reputations.
Watch: Vestergaard found the net against his former club Bremen on Matchday 8
- Gladbach's 6-1 defeat at Borussia Dortmund was the heaviest loss any side suffered in the first half of the season.Vestergaard's three headed goals make him (along with Hertha Berlin's Salomon Kalou and Augsburg's Alfred Finnbogason) the most dangerous player in the air in front of goal in the Bundesliga.Vestergaard has played every minute of the Bundesliga season so far.Only Cologne (20) conceded more goals to opposition strikers than Gladbach (15) in the Hinrunde.
Borussia have eschewed a winter training camp and resume training in Mönchengladbach on 2 January. The Foals then begin the second half of the season against local rivals Cologne and – with no DFB Cup action or European football as a distraction – the club's full focus for the remainder of the campaign will be on claiming a top-four berth.