English champ Chelsea and Italian champ Juventus are undoubtedly the highest-profile European clubs to endure a poor start to their respective seasons, but Germany’s Borussia Monchengladbach, which finished third in the Bundesliga last season, is arguably the most disappointing.
While the Blues (currently 17th in England) and the Bianconeri (currently 16th in Italy) are certainly having a tough time, nobody (at this juncture anyway) really expects either club to fail to qualify for the UEFA Champions League next season, let alone be faced with a relegation fight once April and May roll around.
But just six games into the new season, ‘Gladbach is starting to dangerously resemble a ship without a rudder, with zero wins, zero draws and four losses, two goals scored and 11 conceded -- a record good enough for last-place in the Bundesliga. On Tuesday, the Foals traveled to Europa League champion Sevilla for the club’s UCL debut, where they were roundly beaten 3-0. In fact, to date, three of the club’s three losses in all competitions have come by a margin greater than 3-0.
What’s going on here, you ask? Well, two big things, actually.
The first huge problem is at the back. Whereas last season the Foals did it with defense, conceding a record-low 26 goals in 34 games, this season they’ve already let in 11, which represents an astonishing 42 percent of last season’s total. For perspective, this is even worse than Chelsea’s porous start to its Premier League defense.
The second huge problem is the loss of Germany internationals Christoph Kramer, who joined Bayer Leverkusen over the summer, and Max Kruse, who joined Wolfsburg. Kramer, an excellent defensive midfielder, was a huge part of protecting ‘Gladbach’s backline last season, while Kruse was equally important at the other end: not only did he score 11 goals, he also added nine assists -- that’s big productivity lost at both ends. Their replacements, former Hannover captain Lars Stindl and former Bayern forward Josep Drmic, have both failed to settle thus far.
So, what we have is a team missing a huge part of its spine; the result is nothing working in sync.
For now, ‘Gladbach is backing coach Lucien Favre, who was voted coach of the 2014-15 season by the Bundesliga’s players in May: "He's absolutely indispensable," Foals’ sporting director Max Eberl told Bild last week. "I'm not wasting any thoughts on something like that."
Of course, that was before consecutive 3-0 defeats to Hamburg and Sevilla.
Watch this space.