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Mönchengladbach begin Favre experiment with a rare home win

Faced with the prospect of going down to division two, the Foals have turned to a coach, Lucien Favre, whose last team got relegated. It's an unusual, counter-intuitive move that just might work.

Gladbach players celebrate

Gladbach got a rare chance to celebrate on Sunday

A 2-1 home win over a lethargic Schalke side is not normally the sort of result that qualifies for the attributes "super" and "fantastic."

But new Gladbach coach Lucien Favre was justified in using those adjectives following Sunday's match. It was, after all, the floundering Foals' first home win of the entire season, and Gladbach had to overcome an early deficit.

"We played very well," Favre told reporters. "Especially the reaction of the team to going down 1-nil was super."

The victory was something of a novelty both for Gladbach and their coach. Favre's last win came with Hertha Berlin, which he coached between 2007 and 2009, in the first match of last season.

Hertha then went on an extended losing streak that cost the Swiss skipper his job. So is it wise of the Foals to put their fate in the hands of a coach with no experience of relegation battles in Germany, and whose previous team is now playing in division two?

As often is the case in football, there are two ways to see the situation.

The pros

Lucien Favre

Favre is a hands-on coach in practices

There can be no doubt that Favre understands tactics. In the 2008-9 season, he guided a modestly talented Hertha squad to an astonishing number of close wins that gave them a shot taking the Bundesliga title.

Those who follow the club from the capital closely still remember how the Swiss coach once interrupting a press conference to illustrate his strategy with Xs and Os drawn on an improvised chalkboard.

An excellent player in his own right, Favre occasionally demonstrated things like proper finishing to his players during practices, and he was never afraid to bench stars who he thought were failing to get with the program.

Moenchengladbach's Marco Reus celebrates

Rising star Marco Reus scored the equalizer against Schalke

All of these qualities could help to fix Gladbach's biggest problem this year - poor discipline. The Foals lead the league in red cards, with six in total.

And in Favre's two complete seasons at Hertha, Berlin had a better than average defense. So there's every reason to expect improvements at the back in this Gladbach side, which has conceded a whopping 57 goals.

And indeed, apart from a blunder by Dante that led to Schalke's goal, Gladbach's back four looked basically solid against the Royal Blues. The team also did not pick up so much as a yellow card during the match.

But Gladbach's two goals on Sunday came after long passes and were aided by some sloppy Schalke defending. So if anyone in Gladbach thinks they are out of the woods, they had better think again.

The cons

Favre, as Hertha fans found out during Berlin's disastrous start to the previous campaign, comes with some definite deficits.

Favre at Berlin

Favre often seemed at a loss in his final days with Hertha

The first is the German language. The native of Francophone Switzerland possesses one of the most charming accents the Bundesliga has heard in recent years, but it also renders him difficult to understand for both players and the media.

In the autumn of 2009, as Hertha were free-falling their way to the bottom of the table, Favre was unable to coherently explain the team's poor performances or articulate plans for rectifying them. At many post-match press conferences, he had the demeanor of a small animal ensnared by a boa constrictor and starting to feel the coils tighten.

Favre also had repeated problems managing his top performers. Even during Hertha's stand-out 2008-9 campaign, he alternated between the squad's two best goalscorers Marko Pantelic and Andriy Voronin, eventually alienating both.

That deficiency was widely blamed for Hertha suffering an embarrassing 4-0 loss to relegated Karlsruhe on the final day of the 2008-9 season, a result that prevented Berlin from qualifying for the Champions League.

Favre will have to show that he can get along with the likes of Igor de Camargo, Juan Arango and Mike Hanke - who have all been difficult characters in the past - if the Foals are to have any chance of pulling off an unlikely comeback and staying in the first division.

And Favre was not quick starter with Hertha. In his first season in Berlin, 2007-8, the club finished 10th - with more defeats than wins.

Nothing but wins will help Gladbach now. Favre himself says the Foals need at least five more victories from their remaining 11 matches to have any chance of staying up.

And that encourages speculations that in hiring Favre, Gladbach are already preparing for life in division two. The coach's contract is valid for both of the two top tiers in German football.

Author: Jefferson Chase
Editor: Nancy Isenson

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