It’s a new year in Mönchengladbach, and they’re primed to be as slightly-above-average as ever. Last season was uncharacteristically mediocre even for a club that thrives on coming up just short. Dieter Hecking’s side finished a somehow-disappointing-yet-unsurprising 9th place, well out of reach of the Europa League. They’ve had a characteristically bland transfer window, and are ready for another season of struggling to make Europe.
Bundesliga: 9th place - 47 points (13 - 8 - 13)
DFB Cup - Round of 16 - Loss to Bayer Leverkusen, 1-0
Over the past couple of seasons, Borussia Mönchengladbach have remained solidly within the top half of Bundesliga clubs. Last season they definitely underperformed by their standards. If you look at the breakdown of their season, it basically consisted of a 13-game stretch of solid results, followed by a disastrous run of 10 matches with 7 losses, followed by an 11 match run where they pretty much sputtered along and finished 9th.
The moves that BMG made in the summer of 2017 didn’t pay off much. Denis Zakaria was okay, if unremarkable, while Vincenzo Grifo was injured for most of the year. Matthias Ginter was, predictably, mediocre. Lars Stindl and Raffael both had subpar seasons: the one breakout was Thorgan Hazard, who registered 10 goals and 5 assists, while playing every single match in the Bundesliga (and substantially underperformed his xG score).
Allasane Pléa (CF) - OGC Nice - 23€ Million
Andreas Poulsen (LB) - FC (Oh boy) Midtjylland - €4.5 Million
Michael Lang (RB) - FC Basel - €2.8 Million
Keanan Bennett (LM) - Tottenham U23s - €2.25 Million
Jannik Vestergaard (CB) - Southampton (go Paul!) - €25 Million
Vincenzo Grifo (LW) - TSG Hoffenheim - €5.5 Million
Raul Bobadilla (CF) - Argentinos - €1.5 Million
Borussia Mönchengladbach spent almost exactly as much as they spent this window, displaying an almost impressive, Watzke-esque lack of ambition. Allasane Pléa was, at one point, a BVB transfer target, and given the fact that BVB don’t, you know, HAVE A STRIKER, he would have been nice to get. Pléa was very good for OGC Nice, scoring 16 goals in 34 matches. I’m no expert on Ligue 1, but he’ll probably be surrounded by more talent at Gladbach, so he might be able to benefit from that. The loss that hurts the most is Vestergaard. That leaves Nico Elvedi (good) and Matthias Ginter (not good) as their remaining center-defenders, with pretty much no depth behind them. Poulsen and Lang are the type of low-risk, high-reward transfers that can pay off big time, but can also be disappointing.
What to expect in 2018/19
I don’t see things getting much better or worse for the foals this year. There’s a chance that young players like Elvedi, Zakaria, and Thorgan Hazard can take the next step and carry Gladbach back to Europe. Frankly though, I doubt it. I still think that Gladbach will be out of reach of Bayern, BVB, Leverkusen, Schalke, and Leipzig at minimum. That doesn’t leave much room for error: they’ll have to fight off other want-ins like Stuttgart, Eintracht Frankfurt, Wolfsburg, and Hertha, none of whom will go down without a fight.
In order to be successful, Gladbach will need their young core to stay healthy and in-form. Pléa will have to hit the ground running as a quality Bundesliga finisher. The foals still have pieces in place to be an above-average Bundesliga club, but it sure as heck(ing) won’t be easy.
Prediction: Pretty Much the Same
Whether they finish 7th, 11th, or somewhere in between, Mönchengladbach will probably finish somewhere in mid-table. I think the five clubs I mentioned above are almost sure to finish above them, and any of the others could surpass expectations. If I were a gladbach fan, I wouldn’t get my hopes up for a return to the Champions League.