After a brief visit to the Premier League, we’re going to take another trip back across the English Channel, this time to Germany. Our Darkhorse of the week is Bundesliga club Borussia Mönchengladbach (Gladbach for short), who get this honor based on their performance this year over last year.
Gladbach is one of the most storied German programs of all time, and during the 1970s Gladbach won 5 Bundesliga titles and finished runner up twice more. During this span they also won the UEFA Cup for the 1974-1975 and 1978-1979 seasons, finishing as runners up two more times. They’ve also had two European Player of the Year selections in Igor Belanov (1986) and Allan Simonsen (1977). They’ve also had players selected as the nationality player of the year (i.e. Kasey Keller, USA Player of the year 1997, 1999, and 2005) on numerous occasions.
More recently, they were relegated from the Bundesliga in 2006-2007, although they won promotion the following season. They’ve stayed in the Bundesliga since and under the Lucien Favre years 2011-2015 (now the Dortmund head coach/manager) the Foals had success until the last portion of his tenure where after a string of successive losses, Favre resigned. Favre’s replacement, Schubert, got the Foals back to the Champions League, however, he too would resign the following season after struggling mightily. Dieter Hecking was appointed as Gladbach’s newest manager in January 2017.
Gladbach finished the 2017-2018 season in 9th place on 47 points, so far this season they are standing in 3rd place. So far this season they are averaging almost 1.9 points/match which is almost a half point per game improvement over last season’s 1.38 points per match. If they are able to continue their current form, they would finish on 64 points, which last season would have been good enough for 2nd place and a Champions League spot. Last season Gladbach had 47 goals for, 52 goals against, and a goal differential of negative 5, so far this season, they are on pace to annihilate their statistics from the prior season with (expected) goals at 64, concessions at 38 for a total goal differential of +26.
Alassane Plea (transfer from OGC Nice, $28M) – Plea has made 9 appearances for the Foals (including 7 starts) for an average of 70’. During that time he’s already contributed 5 goals and 2 assists. Last season for Nice in the Ligue 1 he provided 16 goals, and 7 more assists across 34 league appearances, if he maintains this level of production, he would provide more goals (~20) and assists (~8).
Michael Lang (transfer from FC Basel, $3.4M) – The 27 year old joins the Foals coming off a great season with FC Basel where he started in 34 of 36 averaging just shy of 90’ per appearance (30 appearances at RB, and 13 RM) where he supplied 5 goals and 6 assists. He sustained a ligament injury early on in his time with Gladbach and is only now rounding into fitness – he’s made 4 appearances averaging about 80’.
I think that the Foals are definitely within reach of a Champions League place and the lovely financial windfall that comes with that. Their most recent match was less than convincing, but I think it will serve as good motivation for a return to form. I anticipate a greater role for Michael Long going forward and could see the Foals continuing a great pattern of form. So far they have only recorded losses to the Hertha Berlin (6th) and Freiburg (11th) and they also reported a fantastic 3-0 victory over Bayern Munich (2nd).