Mönchengladbach′s new-look ′Foals′ and trusty warhorses | Sports| German football and major international sports news | DW | 18.08.2012
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Mönchengladbach's new-look 'Foals' and trusty warhorses

Marco Reus, the player of last season, has gone to Borussia Dortmund. Dante is now with Bayern Munich. Success last season caused the vultures to circle Borussia Mönchengladbach's squad, but don't feel too bad for them.

It was easy to focus on what Gladbach have lost, even ahead of their home defeat to Kyiv. New Bayern Munich defender Dante was the rock in coach Lucien Favre's back four last season. And Marco Reus, now at Borussia Dortmund, is one of the most exciting young attackers in the game. He won the Bundesliga player of the year award, scoring 18 in the league and setting up another 11. Reus either netted or directly assisted more than half of Gladbach's league goals last season.

Marco Reus stands with his back to the Borussia Mönchengladbach mascot, a foal, who is holding a club flag.

You can't replace Marco Reus, but Favre shopped shrewdly

But spare a thought for the personnel the young "Foals" have retained - and for the players they have gained.

A coach with a concept

Starting right at the top, Gladbach still have Lucien Favre, who took the club from the brink of relegation to the Champions League in less than 18 months. The Foals had conceded less than a goal per game since Favre took charge, ahead of the Kyiv match. The francophone Swiss favors a watertight 4-4-2 formation with a pair of defensive midfielders, and strikers who are expected to chip in all over the pitch.

"Lucien Favre is a meticulous worker, he leaves nothing to chance and minds the details," Favre's former boss at FC Zürich, Fredy Bickel, told the Swiss Tagesanzeiger daily recently. "Possession was always fundamentally important to him. The players therefore always had to play the short, safe pass. Favre looked to avoid the risk of long balls whenever possible."

Lucien Favre

Favre is rightly renowned as a cerebral coach who loves the game

Favre has extended his contract through 2015, meaning he will stay at the helm of one of the youngest teams in Germany. He lamented the losses of Reus and Dante, describing the summer signings as an attempt to replace lost quality, but some might argue the 54-year-old retained his most valuable asset.

"We have a super goalkeeper, that's not even up for discussion," Favre said in a training ground interview last season, with an unusually large grin on his face.

Marc-Andre ter Stegen

If you just follow the German national team, you'd be forgiven for thinking Marc-Andre ter Stegen is hopeless. He has played less than 180 minutes for Germany and conceded eight goals - five in a friendly against Switzerland before Euro 2012, and another three against Argentina last week.

Germany`s goalkeeper Marc Ter Stegen holds the ball after a Lionel Messi penalty during the friendly football match Germany vs Argentina on August 15, 2012 in Frankfurt am Main, western Germany.

Despite his difficult start in the international game, ter Stegen has saved a Lionel Messi penalty

The Gladbach number one, still just 20 years old, was imperious in the Bundesliga last season, though. He was one of just three players to play every minute of every league game. Brilliant with his feet as well as his hands, ter Stegen led Bundesliga goalies with 423 accurate long balls. He claimed more high balls than any of his rival keepers and kept 15 clean sheets; Gladbach's defense last season was the best in Germany.

If it weren't for a certain superstar named Manuel Neuer, Joachim Löw might well be showing the same faith in ter Stegen, who cemented his first team spot under Favre as Gladbach fought off relegation two years ago.

Sturdy left, young pretenders

Gladbach fans will easily recognize the left flank on game days, as it will generally be occupied by the club's oldest two players. Captain Filip Daems, of Belgium, is a clear first choice at left-back, while in front of him, Venezuela's national captain Juan Arango - perhaps the proprietor of the finest left boot in all the Bundesliga - will slot into the left-midfield role.

Juan Arango fires a free kick over the FC Cologne wall in a Bundesliga game last season

Juan Arango's free kicks strike fear into the hearts of all who know him

Arango grabbed a pre-season hat trick in a friendly against second division Bochum.

Even before Favre loosened the purse strings, he boasted several youngsters hoping to make the next step this season. Havard Nordtveit nearly got Gladbach relegated with an own goal in the relegation playoff at the end of 2011, but the Norwegian has since matured into a sturdy midfield influence who is more than capable in defense when needed.

At 21, Patrick Herrmann is a year younger than Nordtveit, and a far more offensive presence. As Marco Reus made the withdrawn striker position his own last season, Herrmann filled the vacancy on the right flank with aplomb. Though he's not yet reached the international radar, Herrmann - who is shaking off a muscular injury and might start the season slowly - is a German U21 international and another potential member of Joachim Löw's golden generation.

Granit Xhaka of Moenchengladbach controls the ball during the friendly match between Borussia Moenchengladbach and FC Sevilla at Borussia-Park on August 4, 2012 in Moenchengladbach, Germany.

Xhaka, Favre's Swiss countryman, can bring a little flair to the six spot

Herrmann and Arango could be the key to Favre's success or failure in the absence of Marco Reus. They can provide the width and tempo Reus personifies, arguably better than any of Gladbach's new additions, all of whom gravitate towards the center of the pitch.

The new-boys

After losing two key players, Favre has brought in three capped international stars and another German hotshot, Peniel Mlapa. Mlapa might not make the first team immediately, but the striker has time on his side at 21, and will be looking to usurp older players like Mike Hanke and Igor de Camargo.

Gladbach also has a trio of new arrivals who will be expected to immediately bed into the team, and the side's success is likely to hinge on how well they fare. In two out of three cases, the language barrier should be relatively minimal, while even Spanish defender Alvaro Dominguez will be able to communicate with veterans like Arango in the short term.

Dominguez, 23, is already a capped Spanish international, and has the unenviable task of replacing Dante at center-back. His time with the Spanish Olympic team might have hampered his preparations somewhat, meaning the Gladbach defensive machine might need a squirt of oil early in the season.

Ahead of Dominguez, Granit Xhaka is a superstar addition to defensive midfield; he will probably line up alongside Nordtveit as one of Gladbach's "sixes," as holding midfielders are often called in Germany. Still a teenager, Xhaka already has 10 Swiss caps, two Swiss goals, and a Swiss league and cup double with the brilliant FC Basel last season under his belt.

Luuk de Jong at a training session in the Metallist stadium in Kharkov, Ukraine, before the match vs. Denmark at EURO 2012.

Isolated frontman, or new spearhead? The answer could decide Gladbach's fate

Luuk de Jong, thought to be Gladbach's most expensive summer signing, banged in 25 goals in just 31 league games for FC Twente in the Dutch Eredivisie last season. At home, he is lauded as the new Klaas-Jan Huntelaar - now a feared Bundesliga marksman at Schalke. The right-footed 21-year-old is tall and wiry, but deceptively strong and by no means slow. The question is whether he can settle straight into the greater physical demands of the German Bundesliga. Huntelaar had a very lean opening season adapting to life at Schalke.

De Jong is the closest thing to a "replacement" for Marco Reus, but he is a completely different type of player. Gladbach were the team without a genuine striker last season - regulars Reus, Hanke and de Camargo were more "forwards" - now Favre needs to tweak his system to fit his new goal-poacher. There's no better coach to work out and implement a strategy to this end.