Borussia Monchengladbach have endured one of the most turbulent and enthralling seasons in their history and have enjoyed an incredible turnaround within the calendar year that has seen them go from on the verge of relegation to challenging for a place in next season’s Champions League. Their success can be put down to one man. Lucien Favre.
The 56-year-old Swiss coach took over from an ailing Gladbach side who were 13 points adrift at the bottom of the table on Valentine’s Day when Favre replaced under-fire coach Michael Frontzeck who was sacked by Sporting director Max Eberl. The former Hertha coach put extreme emphasis on the basics which were almost non-existent from Gladbach’s first half of the season and immediately, they saw a turnaround in form.
Favre made some big decisions in his first few weeks in the hotseat, for example, by handing 18-year-old Marc-Andre Ter Stegen the number one jersey and opting for a more ‘traditional’ 4-4-2 formation, in comparison to Frontzeck’s failed 4-2-3-1. The rookie goalkeeper, Ter Stegen, has been a revelation for Gladbach and he boasts the same towering features as Manuel Neuer, who is currently the number one goalkeeper in the country.
But arguably, the most important part of their rise to Bundesliga safety was the excellent form of young attacker Marco Reus, who is rated as one of Germany’s best talents. The 22-year-old scored 10 goals last season from a right-midfield position, a tally which he has already beaten by the end of the ‘Hinrunde’ (first half of the season).
Gladbach’s Nowegian defender Havard Nordtveit, formally of Arsenal in his younger years, has excelled in a new defensive-midfield role under Lucien Favre and he believes Reus should have continued his fledging career at Borussia Park, rather than agreeing a deal with Borussia Dortmund which will see him leave at the end of the current season.
He said: “I think the best thing for Marco is to play his game in Borussia and the club’s will be more and more interested. I can understand the interest from England as he is a fantastic player and has scored a lot of goals. He’s showed he is a top player and many clubs around the world are interested, and not just from England.
“In Borussia, we need every player in the squad and if he stays we need to keep the same mentality and I’m sure he will. He is always a very important player and I think he knows that.”
Lucien Favre’s hard-work culminated in a nail-biting play-off with VfL Bochum in the space of three days with the Bundesliga side relying on an injury-time winner from Igor de Camargo to give Gladbach a slight edge going into the second leg. At the Rewirpower-Stadion, in front of a vociferous home support, the second division side took a first-half lead with Nordtveit converting the ball into his own net and putting Favre’s men on the back-foot.
But an almost remarkable second half performance from young Reus, including a vital solo-goal with 18 minutes to play, was the difference on the night which sparked huge celebrations amongst the Gladbach players and their travelling supporters.
“It was quite difficult for the whole team but we were mentally strong and we had a great atmosphere in the team. We finally made it after mission impossible and we went to play-offs and beat Bochum at home and drew 1-1 away to stay up.
“It’s hard to say but we need to believe in ourselves. I think we have a good squad and if you don’t believe then why are you playing.”, Nordveit added.
Since Lucien Favre was appointed as head coach at Borussia Park in February, his side have won 16 games from 29 in the Bundesliga, with another five draws and eight defeats, as well as, 11 clean sheets which shows how hard to beat they have become in the last ten months.
At the start of the winter break, Gladbach sit in the fourth Champions League position with just four points separating them and league-leaders FC Bayern, with Dortmund and Schalke sandwiched between the Foles. If it was not for a surprising and lacklustre performance against second-bottom FC Augsburg in December, they would be just one point off the Bavarian giants who are aiming for Bundesliga and Champions League glory.
Nordtveit adds: “It’s a very good situation now and it’s been a while since we won a title in Borussia and it would be fantastic if we made it.”
You can listen to Havard Nordveit speaking exclusively to Bundesliga Football here