Winter break: Borussia Mönchengladbach

4th Place

Grade: A+

The Gladbachers are the surprise of the season so far. Certainly just about everybody expected them to struggle once again. Last season, it took a late season miracle run to avoid relegation: and that only finally came by defeating Bochum in a playoff. So the very idea of Gladbach being anywhere near the top seems outrageous, but here they (deservedly) are…As a result, I have to give them an even higher grade than the teams above them, just for the shock value.

How they are doing it is anyone’s guess; I suspect it’s with mirrors. In reality, it’s been with stout defense and fighting spirit. This is a young team, and it starts at the back. 19 year old GK Marc-André ter Stegen has been quite good. (Germany seems to produce good keepers on a conveyor belt). Gladbach has only given up 11 goals, only 1 more than stingy Bayern. The defense seems to be filled with nobodies, but they’ve been getting the job done. Brazilian Dante has emerged as quite a find, but most of the others I’ve never heard of.

The midfield continues with nobodies, although Venezuelan Juan Arango deserves some recognition. He’s been a key player for Gladbach over the last couple of years. But it really has been yet another young emerging German superstar that has caught everyone’s attention: Marco Reus (22) has stormed to the top in a true breakout season. He leads the team with 10 goals, and rich clubs look to come calling. He’s already been called up to the national squad, but of course, there is a lot of young talent now vying for spots in the DFB squad. Reus has had some lingering injury problems that has kept him out of recent matches, but has been a force when he’s played. The midfield has been excellent, but you’d be hard pressed to recognize any of the other players.

The Gladbach attack has been pretty ho-hum. Veteran Mike Hanke scores once in a blue moon, Raul Bobadilla and Ivan Camargo are about the same. Not really going to scare too many teams.

The real success story is probably that of the Swiss coach, Lucien Favre. He’s bounced around a bit, but he took over late last season in a hopeless situation from Michael Frontczeck, and not only saved them from relegation, but has steered the club in the upper echelons. I would think that the wheels will eventually fall off. The “big IF” is whether Gladbach can hold on to their young talent as they develop. They’ve been in this situation before and sold out with almost catastrophic results.

It would be quite surprising if they can maintain this pace through the second half.

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