By Leo Linden
It's amazing how a two-month-long offseason can change everything. In May, Borussia Monchengladbach capped off a brilliant 2014-15 campaign by finishing third in the Bundesliga, their best finish since 1987, and qualifying for this year’s UEFA Champions League. Despite struggling at the beginning of last season, Gladbach blazed through the second half, not losing a domestic fixture between February 14th and May 16th, only falling on the final day to Augsburg with their spot in the table already confirmed.
So, naturally, there were high expectations for the North Rhine-Westphalia side coming into this year, but so far, Die Fohlen (The Foals), as they are known, have fallen flat on their faces, and now have some major issues they must correct.
The club was founded in 1900, under the name FC Borussia, and spent its early years, as many German clubs did, playing in local and district leagues. The side did little of note before the breakout of the the First World War aside from taking one local trophy. A similar story of mediocrity ensued between the wars and through the second.
Finally, the club found success in 1960 as it won the West German Cup and, just weeks later, accomplished a double by winning the DFB-Pokal. The next year was also a big one, but for administrative reasons, as Munchen and Gladbach, two German cities, combined into Monchengladbach, and the club became known as Borussia Monchengladbach, as it still is today.
Despite the success in the early 1960s, Gladbach never challenged again in the ununified leagues, and their results were only good enough to see them placed into the second division when the Bundesliga was formed in 1963. It didn’t take long for Die Fohlen to crack into the top flight, however, as they did so in 1965, finishing 13th to retain their position in the Bundesliga.
It wasn’t a blazing start to Gladbach’s top-flight experience, but the golden years were just around the corner. In the seasons which concluded in 1968 and ‘69, Monchengladbach sent a warning shot over the Bundesliga’s bow, finishing in third on both accounts, before beginning a dominant run in the ‘70s.
Back to back title seasons which ended in 1970 and ‘71 saw Gladbach rise to the top of the German ranks, but, as always, Bayern Munich retook the pinnacle,
Those three titles were undoubtedly the best teams in Gladbach’s history, and though they tasted European glory by winning the UEFA Cup (now the Europa League) in 1974 and 1979, Die Fohlen fell just short on the biggest stage in club football, losing in the 1977 European Cup final (now Champions League) to Liverpool.
Following the spectacular run of titles, Gladbach have taken a dive and have not been crowned champions of Germany since, or really even come close in the last 20 years. Their only hardware to show has been a lone DFB-Pokal trophy in 1995 and a 2. Bundesliga title in 2008.
So, for good reason, everyone in Gladbach’s camp was very excited coming into the season. They surely weren’t tipped as favorites in the title race, and their UCL group of Juventus, Manchester City and Sevilla appeared more than daunting, but optimism ran rampant nonetheless. However, Die Fohlen have done absolutely nothing in their first five games of the season.
Their opening fixture of the year, a huge match against Dortmund, turned into a landslide as Gladbach were dominated by Marco Reus, Henrikh Mkhitaryan, and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang from the opening kick, eventually losing 4-0. A pair of 2-1 losses followed, to Werder Bremen and Mainz, who finished 10th and 11th last year, respectively. Then things turned from bad to downright abysmal when Hamburg, who only avoided relegation last season through the playoff, smashed Gladbach at the Borussia Park (Gladbach’s home) 3-0, sending Die
Another tricky task came yesterday, when they opened up their UCL campaign against Sevilla, who is probably the weakest team in the group barring Gladbach. As expected, life got no better for the Germans, who were promptly dispatched by another 3-0 scoreline, only adding to the early season misery.
Now, Die Fohlen enter the biggest stretch of their season as they try to recover from their terrible start. Things get easier as they play Koln, Augsburg, and Stuttgart in their next three fixtures, a trio with just two wins (both from Koln) in their combined 12 games of the season, and Stuttgart are the only other side yet to obtain a Bundesliga point.
But the pressure is surely on for Gladbach, as failing to get a chunk of points in those fixtures could derail their season before a quarter of the season is even played.
Those matches are even more crucial when looking further down the schedule. After the relatively easy stretch, Monchengladbach play Manchester City, Wolfsburg, Eintracht Frankfurt (who are in fourth), Juventus, and Schalke, in that order. It's a daunting stretch to say the least, and if the club hasn’t worked out its on-field issues, Gladbach could be trying to fight their way out of the relegation scrap in December. Obviously, it's a longshot to say relegation will rear its ugly head in Monchengladbach, but if serious changes are not on the horizon for Die Fohlen, it could be a rough season ahead in North Rhine-Westphalia.