Preview: FC Bayern Munich – Borussia Mönchengladbach

Justin Separator October 21, 2016

Before the much-anticipated game, we talked to Christian Straßburger. He spoke to us about the past and told us why Max Eberl is currently the best manager in the league.

(Grafik: Michael Böck)
(Visual: Michael Böck)

Hello Christian, please quickly introduce yourself. Who are you, what is your occupation, and why did you choose Borussia as your team?

Hi Justin, my name is Christian Straßburger, I am 27 years old and I’m chief of media and communication at Rot-Weiß Oberhausen in Germany’s fourth division. In addition to that I work as the stadium announcer and as a reporter for our own media channels.

Borussia has been my team since I was 11 years old. At that time I moved to Glachbach and watched my first match live at the previous stadium “Bökelberg”. It was at night and freezing cold, Hannover 96 was the opponent. Most importantly, we won the game, but I also caught a football at halftime and even won some kind of beach-chair as well. A magical night! Ever since then I’ve been a Fan of Borussia.

This is probably the craziest story in all our previews so far. Let us talk sport now! Andre Schubert has been coach of Borussia for more than a year now. What do you think of him?

We need to be satisfied with where we stand. There’s a saying amongst Borussia fans: „Those who can’t remember playing in Bochum, don’t get the meaning of playing in Barcelona.“ It is a reminder of where we’ve come from. A few years ago, we were relegated and always played for the lower ranks of the Bundesliga. Many coaches came and went and the board was always active publicly.

Right now, all of that has changed for good. The structures inside the club are stable and strong and to exaggerate a bit, you have to be a fool as a coach not to have “success” with a team like that. Schubert obviously does his job quite well even if he acts hard-headed from time to time. In comparison to former coach Lucien Favre, he implemented a three at the back option but is more or less maintaining his players’ well-coached habits.

Your squad seems to be well-balanced and always prepared as well. Do you agree? And can you name some weak spots the team has to work on?

Max Eberl, who is, first and foremost, responsible for the squad, is without a doubt the best manager we have in the league right now. He is always faster than his competitors and thinks two steps ahead. In addition to that, the current situation at the club is another big advantage and his team does some outstanding work, day in day out.

Quality-wise the squad may just be the best of the recent past. Offensively, we are incredible strong. Christoph Kramer does an amazing job, Elvedi and Christensen showed what they are capable of at such a young age and Vestergaard needs some more games. I am not a huge fan of the three at the back formation because I think we would be much stronger with four defenders. But that’s just my opinion.

What are the reasons for the rough start at the beginning of the season?

“Rough” in this case is a loose description, I think. We have a constant problem playing away from home, which causes us to be only in 9th place right now. But we beat Leverkusen and managed to steal some point at Leipzig. In total, we acquired 11 point in seven games; I can think of worse situations in the past. Schubert still has not found “his team” properly and the absence of Rafael harms us as well.

We will fight for the top six in the Bundesliga again, which is huge if you keep in mind the situation a few years ago. That is something we need to be satisfied with.

You already mentioned that you’ve been in the top tier of the Bundesliga for some time now and you have a real concept at hand. What are the short-term and long-term goals Gladbach would like to achieve?

Like I already mentioned, the structures at the club are incredibly strong. This is all thanks to the people who work there in different departments. Whether it’s media, marketing or sport in youth and professional areas, it all developed well over the past few years.

We deserve to win a title in the near future. I think the DFB Cup might be the most realistic target but you need some luck when drawing opponents. There were only a few home games in the past, which is quite unfortunate. One time we reached the semi-final and lost against Bayern in a penalty shootout where Dante missed before departing for your club the following season. I do not understand how they could put him in such a ridiculous situation. But whatever…

André Schubert was successful in Glasgow as well.(Photo: Mark Runnacles / Getty Images)
André Schubert was successful in Glasgow as well.
(Photo: Mark Runnacles / Getty Images)

Due to the last few matchups you may say Borussia is the favourite on Saturday. How do you expect your team to play?

(laughs) Like we always do. We will be playing courageously and with a lot of discipline. Then Manuel Neuer will make a huge mistake, which causes us to win 1:0.

If you could choose one Bayern player for your team – who would it be and why?

Jérôme Boateng. He is a terrific defender and human being as well. All of his success is due to hard work and you can always rely on him. For me, he is the best Bayern player right now.

Bayern Munich has had some major difficulties playing Borussia Mönchengladbach in previous seasons. The current change of structure may be causing things to get worse.

Scouting report

Schubert’s three at the back

Borussia has always been a tough opponent even with Lucien Favre as a coach who perfected the 4-4-2 formation for Borussia with great success. They made their way back into international football where they have prevailed for several seasons.
After avoiding relegation, the team finished 4th, 8th, 6th and 3rd, which is quite remarkable. After that streak, the following season started with some difficulties that caused Favre to resign and Andre Schubert to take over.

Why do we talk about all of this, you may ask? Because the change under the reign of Andre Schubert is exceptional. He not only managed to revive an apparently dead team, but also improved their flexibility in tactics as well. He deserves some credit for the development from 4-4-2 into 3-4-1-2, which is not the only option.

For example, the game against Glasgow showed that the team is able to play four at the back to act more defensively. Schubert maintained the verticality Favre implemented during his time as manager and added more structure to it. Right now they are able to find solutions in possession as well as creating triangles all over the pitch. Their style of play in general is risky as shown by the forward passes statistics. Playing the second-most overall successful forward passes in the League with 74 passes fewer than leader Bayern Munich is quite impressive.

If you take a closer look at the passing of both teams, the game on Saturday is likely to be defined by verticality.(Visual: Lukas)
If you take a closer look at the passing of both teams, the game on Saturday is likely to be defined by verticality.
(Visual: Lukas)

Another remarkable thing is the squad depth at Gladbach. Especially in offense, the team is stacked with quality players: on the wings there are Johnson, Hahn, Herrmann, Wendt and Traoré. Oscar Wendt, who, as a trained fullback, gives the option to shift between midfield and backline at all times. As a result a three-men, four-men and five-men backline is possible. With Schubert as a coach he found his perfect position as a flexible wing-back.

All of the players mentioned above have pace and great understanding of the game. To be fair, it is quite hard to determine the perfect line-up for the game against Bayern, but let’s try. Johnson and Wendt will create a mixture of three and five at the back. Traoré on the other hand would be a more offensive approach. He is the most creative winger at Borussia right now.

The most dangerous players of both teams in one picture.(Visual: Lukas)
The most dangerous players of both teams in one picture.
(Visual: Lukas)

Offensive problems and man-marking without the ball

One important thing for the wingers is the central line-up. There is no question about the quality of Kramer, Dahoud, and Stindl, who are the usual players in this position. The roles are clear. Kramer is a box-to-box player who wins duels defensively (53% success rate) and opens the build-up play. He even causes some danger in an attacking position. His passing rate is around 86% with 90 contacts per game on average.

Dahoud is more of a link-up player between offense and defence. After intercepting the ball he is most likely to be the first player to pass to. He likes to be in-between the opponent’s lines but also provides support in tight areas. The 20-year-old is a great talent and may already be one of the most important players at Gladbach. It’s noticeable when he’s missing.

Lars Stindl’s responsibility lies in the central offensive midfield position. The former Hannover 96 player provides assists, draws back into midfield, creates triangles and tries to get the strikers going. You cannot be sure that all three will play on Saturday because of all the other options available for Andre Schubert.

Raffael and Hazard generally form the strike-force up front. Both have outstanding technical abilities, pace, and are goal-scoring experts. Together, they’ve already scored five times in the Bundesliga this season. Due to the fact that most of the offensive players have some similarities, it is possible to change up positions in-game. Most of the chances are created in half-spaces, which is exactly where Bayern still has some problems right now.

Only scoring is an issue right now for Gladbach. In the game vs. Hamburg they tried to score 22 times and even missed two penalties; similar to the game at Schalke where 12 shots were not enough to score. It is still questionable who will be able to break that streak on Saturday because Hazard, Raffael and Johnson all missed the game against Celtic on Wednesday.

Most chances are created in half spaces or centre of the pitch. (Visual: Lukas)
Most chances are created in half spaces or centre of the pitch.
(Visual: Lukas)

Without the ball Borussia cannot convince to the fullest. Sometimes they are just brilliant, but there are bad consequences as well. Due to the man-orientation Schubert implemented, they get into a lot of one-on-one duels, which causes spaces to quickly open for the opponent. However, Bayern struggled with this exact approach for the past few games. They never managed to gain full control of the game in previous matchups. This might be a problem because of the impression that dealing with pressure has been causing difficulties for Bayern more and more often. Kicker stated that the team has been running four kilometres fewer since Ancelotti took over, which might not be a huge deal but surprises a lot. When you think about it, they should run more because of lower possession numbers as well as the lack of structure that causes longer distances to cover opponents. It will be worth keeping an eye on these statistics.

We are sure that this weekend Bayern will act in a more dominant way than last week at Frankfurt. Maybe some long balls by Boateng and Hummels, but a decent build-up play should also be aspired to on the pitch on Saturday.

The game against Eindhoven displayed much better solutions but still revealed problems when not in possession. Gladbach will be a bigger threat, attacking much more actively than Eindhoven did. Ancelotti’s team needs to find solutions in the first and second third of the pitch before switching positions offensively in the third part to surprise the opponent. Against Eindhoven, Robben, Müller, and Lewandowski but also Kimmich had great performances and covered the space behind the striker way more effectively. Müller showed that he is the ideal player in this position. The game will be decided by the duels created through the man-orientation of Borussia as well as by the questions how Bayern is able to outnumber the opponent successfully.

Scene of the game against Eindhoven. Müller covered the space behind the striker and had his best performance of the season. He may be the solution for many of the current problems.
Scene of the game against Eindhoven. Müller covered the space behind the striker and had his best performance of the season. He may be the solution for many of the current problems.


Last five games against Borussia Mönchengladbach

Overall record

  • 103 Games total – 49 Bayern wins, 32 draws, 22 losses
  • 320 goals total – 193 Bayern goals, 127 Gladbach goals
  • Bayern is currently on a 4-game no-win streak against Gladbach (two draws, two losses)

Fun Facts

  • Since 2010, Bayern has only managed to win four times against Borussia (four losses, five draws).The only matchup in the DFB-Cup Bayern won after penalties.
  • Both teams did not win their last two games in the Bundesliga. Borussia has never lost points three times in a row with Schubert in charge.
  • Bayern gave up a lead two times in a row (last time this happened was march 2010).
  • Schubert is unbeaten against Bayern.
  • Thomas Müller still has not scored in the Bundesliga. This is the first time ever in his career so far into the season. He scored his last goal against Gladbach last season.
  • Franck Ribéry took part in all five wins this season. He missed both games when FC Bayern lost points against Cologne and Frankfurt.
  • Borussia only managed to win one of the last 14 away games in the Bundesliga.

Five bold predictions

  1. Bayern will win (I still don’t know how but they will!)
  2. Gladbach will score at least one goal
  3. A defender will score
  4. Bayern won’t have more than 60% of possession
  5. In the end, Gladbach will have tried to score a goal at least 10 times

Three correct predictions from the Eindhoven preview are a fairly good result, all things considered. In total, that puts me at 27/55.

»Eier, wir brauchen Eier!«

— Oliver Kahn

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