Are Borussia Monchengladbach Legitimate Bundesliga Contenders?

Stefan Bienkowski@@SbienkowskiFeatured ColumnistNovember 11, 2014

Moenchengladbach head coach Lucien Favre of Switzerland arrives the stadium prior to the German first division Bundesliga soccer match between FC Bayern Munich and Borussia Moenchengladbach, in Munich, southern Germany, Friday, Dec. 14, 2012. (AP Photo/Matthias Schrader)
Matthias Schrader/Associated Press

As the old saying goes "History is written by the winners." Never has a phrase been so true about war and indeed football. For within two weeks of Bundesliga battling, Borussia Monchengladbach have fallen from title hopefuls to simple top-four contenders.

Or have they?

This week's news has been led by the line that Borussia Dortmund have finally overcome their domestic hump in form, turned the corner and got their title challenge back on track.

Yet where is the appreciation for Lucien Favre's side and the simple truth behind it all? The Foals should have never lost that game on Sunday.

If it hadn't been for an unfortunate and somewhat freak own goal from Gladbach's current boy-wonder, Christoph Kramer, Favre's side would have left the Westfalenstadion on Sunday with their heads held high. They would have held Dortmund to a 0-0 draw just 14 days after doing the same with Bayern Munich.

Of course, such hyperbole of Gladbach coming undone following their first defeat in the Bundesliga this season is perhaps just as daft as claims that they were indeed ready to fight Bayern for this season's league title.

The Foals are in fact somewhere in between these two extremes.

Operating on a budget that pales in comparison to that of Dortmund, never mind Bayern, Favre should first be considered a genius and an outstanding forerunner for Manager of the Year when we consider what he has built at Borussia-Park on very little resources.

Like Jurgen Klopp and Pep Guardiola, the Swiss coach thrives when allowed the space and time to build a squad from top to bottom and can then twist and turn its tactics with absolute confidence.

It is a team, rather than individual stars, that Favre has built at Gladbach, and it is what has propelled them up the league table this season.

Having lost key players in each season that he's been at the club, Favre has in fact opted to build a squad of hard-working, athletic players who can counter-attack with speed and precision. Comparisons to Klopp's first Dortmund side wouldn't go unnoticed here, as the Foals have taken much success from simply sitting back and hitting teams on the break across Germany.

It's this solid defensive foundation, built upon the outstanding capture of Yann Sommer in goal—a perfect, economical replacement for outgoing wonderkid Marc-Andre ter Stegen—with Tony Jantschke, Martin Stranzl and Alvaro Dominguez in defence, that has allowed Favre to create a team that have conceded fewer goals than all outside the Allianz Arena and indeed lose just one game his season.

Yet football is all about balance, and with a strong defensive line sure enough, a weak attack slowly begins to emerge from the mist.

For all of Gladbach's excellence in keeping the ball out of their own net, they have struggled at times to put it in the opposing goal this season. They may currently sit third in the Bundesliga table on points won, but based on goals scored, they sit as far back as eighth.

Frank Augstein/Associated Press

Oddly enough, striker Max Kruse sits just one goal shy of toping the league goalscoring chart—with five goals in eight starts this season, according to WhoScored.com—yet he stands somewhat alone in a squad of 18 players that has only seen four score more than one goal in this league campaign.

Wolfsburg have Ivica Olic, Ivan Persic and others, Bayern have Robert Lewandowski and Thomas Muller, and even Dortmund have Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, Marco Reus and two other strikers.

Gladbach have only one goalscorer, and it's definitely holding them back.

It's at this point where the comparisons to Klopp's early Bundesliga-winning sides at Dortmund begin to wear thin. Gladbach may defend like the best of them in Germany, but they simply haven't got the talent up front—or at least enough of it—to challenge for a league title.

Instead Favre, and any Gladbach fan you can find, will tell you that their highest ambition this season is to finish within the top four and claim a vital Champions League spot for next season.

Like so many medium-sized clubs around the Bundesliga (Hamburg, Bayer Leverkusen, Stuttgart, Werder Bremen, etc) a shot of life—or cash from Europe's top competition—is all it takes to go from a mid-table yo-yo side to regular top-four contenders and then hopefully a little further forward, as Dortmund have done in recent years.

In a sense, Gladbach are flying way above any expectations they may have set themselves this season. The first step is Champions League qualification and then once they have that footing, to push on and match clubs like Dortmund and Wolfsburg in title challenges.

The problem only comes from Favre being a little too good at his job and the Foals being a little too ahead of schedule. Nonetheless, let's keep our eyes on this space over the next few seasons.

Follow Stefan on Twitter @Sbienkowski.

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