Bo’Munchen: Michael Bradley Out To Pasture, Favre’s Foals Look To Gallop

Chris McClintick returns–(Are you getting college credit for these features yet, Chris?)–to TSG with a feature on Borussia Mönchengladbach (or as we affectionately call them around here “Bo’Munchen) minus one Michael Bradley.

Favre's Foals....

Taking charge of a bottom-of-the table team during the second half of a season is a daunting task when the single expectation and only possible positive outcome is survival.  Unfazed by this ominous challenge, Lucien Favre accepted Borussia Mönchengladbach’s head coach position on February 14th last season, inheriting a squad with only 16 points in 22 matches, and quickly transforming the mentality, and philosophy that ultimately led Gladbach to safety.

The nickname, “Die Fohlen” (The Foals), harking back to Gladbach’s young, prolific, and trophy-laden sides of the 70’s, couldn’t be more relevant with Lucien Favre at the helm.  Throughout his career, Favre has been known for his introduction and development of young players.  While coaching in the Swiss Superliga, the top tier of his home-nation, Favre was responsible for the exposure of youth players such as Steve Von Bergen, Almen Abdi, and Gökhan Inler at FC Zurich who eventually broke into the Swiss national squad.  Using this young blood, as well as his dynamic, attacking, and organized system of play, Favre led Zurich to two consecutive titles in 2006 and 2007, the former being the first for the club in 25 years.

Although the current Gladbach squad hasn’t entirely lived up to their thriving predecessors of the 70’s, the former Hertha Berlin skipper’s trust in youth has not only spurred what papers in Mönchengladbach dubbed “The Great Escape”, but also a continuation of their impressive form in the first two weeks of their 2011-12 Bundesliga campaign: a 1-0 upset of Bayern in the Allianz Arena, and a 1-1 draw against the resurgent Stuttgart.

This great escape required the absolute maximum effort and quality out of “savior” Favre’s disheartened squad in order for them to wriggle out of the depths of the relegation zone.  His first priority had to be defensive organization and cutting down the amount of goals conceded.

Prior to Favre’s reign, Gladbach conceded 51 goals in 22 matches in the Bundesliga alone.  Michael Frontzeck, Favre’s predecessor and former Gladbach defender, addressed this problem by switching first choice keeper Logan Bailly for Christofer Heimeroth two months into the season with little improvement to show for it.   Clearly changing the keeper was not the answer entirely.  During this poor stretch, Gladbach had their largest defeat in club history, a 7-0 loss to Stuttgart, and had a number of embarrassing performances including 4-1 thrashings from Bremen and Dortmund, and blowing a 2-0 lead at home to Stuttgart in February, a match that ultimately led to Frontzeck’s sacking.

Favre’s first match against Schalke in Borussia-Park on February 20th showed immediate results.  After going down 1-0 in two minutes, Gladbach quickly responded with two goals in twenty minutes after a wonder-goal from Marco Reus and later Mohamadou Idrissou.

Gladbach were far from going into the clear however, and although Favre’s squad was producing better results and play on the field, Gladbach picked up only four points in their next five matches, including narrow defeats to Wolfsburg, Kaiserslautern, and Bayern.  During this period Favre re-installed Bailly over Heimeroth in the net, and following the 2-1 defeat to Wolfsburg, gave 21-year-old Tony Jantschke the starting right-back position over Tobias Levels in an attempt to sure up his defense.

The pivotal match of Die Fohlen’s Bundesliga survival came on April 10th hosting FC Cologne.  It was in this match that Favre made a curious change to his line-up, giving 19-year-old keeper, Marc-Andrés Ter Stegen his Bundesliga debut over both Bailly and Heimeroth.  Gladbach went on to embarrass Cologne in an impressive 5-1 showcase of Gladbach’s newfound attacking confidence.  With impressive wins over eventual champions Dortmund, Europa League qualifiers Hannover, and Freiburg, along with a draw on the final match day in Hamburg, Gladbach found themselves in 16th position, the relegation play-off.  They would go up against third-place 2nd Bundesliga-dwellers, Bochum.  Gladbach were always going to find a way to win under their new skipper and architect, and they did just that winning 1-0 at home, and drawing 1-1 in the return leg.

Favre’s Foals

Reus, the Foal's Rolls-Royce....

Once again, Favre finds himself with a squad full of young, talented players after a few new signings over the summer.  Without question, the most important player of this season will be 22-year-old Marco Reus, Gladbach’s player of the season for the past two seasons.

Reus has a knack for spectacular goals, the ability to weave through a defense with the ball attached to his feet with an imaginary rope, and the creative vision to find space and his teammates in scoring positions.  Reus doesn’t need many opportunities, or much time, to make an impact on a match, and what an impact he makes.

It was Reus who scored the first goal of the Favre tenure after ripping the ball with his first touch leaving Schalke’s number one at the time, Manuel Neuer, standing upright unaware the ball just blew past him into the net.   It was Reus who scored an inspiring double in the 5-1 win against Cologne, the first goal coming from intelligent link-up play with Mike Hanke, and the second, an absolutely breath-taking volley from 25-yards out.  And it had to be Reus who scored the decisive goal against Bochum after a clever give-and-go at the top of the box with the veteran Juan Arango, eventually leading Gladbach to safety.  Favre will expect, and surely need Reus to continue his quality performances that have recently earned him a call-up to the German National Team and comparisons with rising German talent such as Andre Schürrle, Mario Götze, and Mesut Özil.

As a kid, Marc-Anrés Ter Stegen held the hand of legend Oliver Kahn during the walk-in of a Germany match; it was then he decided he had to be a keeper.  At 19, he has cemented his position as Gladbach’s number one after his Bundesliga debut last season.  Ter Stegen’s form has been more than impressive, and he has been undoubtedly been a vital part of Favre’s record of only conceding more than one goal in sixteen matches on one occasion – a 2-1 loss to Wolfsburg, his second match in charge.  Ter Stegen has conceded five goals in ten matches with five clean sheets, a level of consistency Manuel Neuer would be envious of.  At only 19, Neuer will need top performances to keep Ter Stegen off his heels for the starting position of the German National Team.

Favre’s physical holding midfield of late has consisted of the 6’2 pairing of Russian-born German international Roman Neustädter (23), and Norwegian Håvard Nordtveit (21), formerly of the Arsenal reserves.  This of course leaves out US national Michael Bradley.  The American has been away on international duty, and not included in either squad so far this season. Public and validated commentary has Favre saying that Bradley will not play for him against at this outpot. Further, Favre has said that if Bradley is to leave, he would invest in a third holding midfield player to likely support Neustädter and Nordtveit.

Hanke arrived from Hannover

Favre will have Veterans amongst his younger players, and will count on strong leadership from his older contingent.  Bundesliga veteran and former Schalke, Wolfsburg, and Hannover forward Mike Hanke (27) has proved an invaluable resource.  Hanke is a proven target forward, and more importantly creates space behind him for Reus to play-off.  Venezuelan captain Juan Arango complements Reus’ creativity in the left midfield, allowing accurate set pieces, crosses, and distribution for Gladbach’s potent counter-attacks.  Favre has bolstered his central defense by picking up Champions League-experienced Swedish international Oscar Wendt (25) from FC Copenhagen.

Other additions Favre made to his squad this summer include:  a duo from Karlsruhe in defender Matthias Zimmerman (19) and attacking midfielder Lukas Rupp (20), and Australian international and former Adelaide United forward Mathew Leckie (20) who made his Bundesliga debut against Stuttgart at a substitute.

Despite Favre’s modest goal of survival this season, expect to see Favre’s system at work yet again, and effective as ever.

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9 responses to this post.

  1. amazing game tonight against Wolfsburg. 4:1

    Reply

    • Posted by ErichW on 2011/08/19 at 6:16 PM

      I was so excited for Bradley to get out of there while the ship was going down… now I’m wishing he was playing for Favre… the style of play he’s instilled is exciting attacking football.

      Bo’munchen look set to do a whole heck of a lot more than avoid relegation if early results are any indication. Too bad that MB won’t be playing for an exciting young team, instead of a floundering one.

      If they don’t sell him by transfer deadline… do they play him at all before January ? Or just sit tight and keep him injury free?

      Reply

      • Posted by Tabare on 2011/08/20 at 2:35 PM

        An observation: Against Wolfsburg, BM moved the ball through midfield quickly and quite effectively — in a way I don’t see Michael Bradley playing. Watching this, it was hard not to think that they are better without Bradley.

        Michael Bradley is a good footballer. But he has been hugely oversold here. Great heart, great engine, excellent at timing his trailing runs, a knack for scoring goals. But technique that is mediocre at best and a quite poor passer of the ball.

        The National team picture? Maybe Bradley will remain a starter. But I would not be surprised to see MB become a substitute.

        Reply

        • Posted by dth on 2011/08/20 at 3:00 PM

          Probably too soon to say any of this.

          After all, in the second fixture of the year Bradley stormed through eventual second-place finisher Leverkusen and Gladbach won 6-3.

          Reply

  2. Posted by Gino on 2011/08/19 at 11:02 PM

    So where does this leave Bradley? Are there any teams out there sniffing around for his services?

    Reply

  3. Posted by biff on 2011/08/21 at 11:03 AM

    Absolutely excellent feature, well written and very informative–A+.

    @Gino: Goal.com had a goofy news story quoting MB’s Italian agent that Napoli and Roma are interested in MB. The story is similar to one that made the rounds in July, so it seems the agent is simply trying to drum up support before the transfer window closes.

    If MB can’t find a team by August 31, he should swallow his pride and ask his teammates to forgive him for abandoning the team in its darkest hour and then beg Favre for a second chance. I guess whether or not Favre would take him back depends on the true reason MB, who I read has one of Gladbach’s highest salaries, has been locked out. If it is because Favre thinks MB is not good enough, MB obviously will remained locked out high salary or not. Favre seems like a good guy, but he is not MB’s dad.

    But if Favre thinks he could contribute and is keeping him off the team only because teammates are still sour that MB jumped ship and told the coach they don’t want to play with him, then that is something that could be worked out.

    Reply

    • Posted by GeorgeCross on 2011/08/21 at 11:51 AM

      He should have swallowed his pride during pre-season – not wait until 31-Aug. Because if he does, it’s even more transparent that he’s only doing it because the window has closed, nobody ["acceptable??"] has come in for him, and he faces 4 months on the sideline – this illustrates that he’s not really sorry.

      Will be interesting to see if he still features for the US whilst not getting any competitive playing time at club level.

      Reply

      • Posted by dth on 2011/08/21 at 12:21 PM

        According to Favre Bradley’s been good about coming into training, being professional etc.

        I think a deal will be worked out. We know Gladbach has already had one offer they consider acceptable (from Russia); I bet more will materialize as time crunches (and Bradley proves less resistant).

        Reply

  4. Posted by KickinNames... on 2011/08/22 at 6:30 AM

    This just seems to add to the sense that I’ve had that this is a guy full of self belief but lacking self reflection. That often comes from being given something without earning it.
    I watched a number of BM games last season before and after and it’s no coincidence that they morphed almost immediately after his departure into a more fluid MF. So what exactly was he envisioning for his career? He gets a full run out with BM with every opportunity to succeed and bails on them when they seem destined for relegation. Does not impress at AV and now is sitting on the outs with a pissed off team in a league whose style is about the best fit for his capabilities.
    On the plus side, it will be very difficult to criticize Klinsi for trying out new MF options excluding him as match fitness is a glaring issue. Of his own making apparently…

    Reply

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