Gladbach’s victory over the stalwart’s of the league, Werder Bremen, gave us a glimpse at a team that has been revitalized under Jos Luhukay and Christian Ziege, and could well be in for a bright future. The addition of Michael Bradley added another young international the next day. So what is it about Gladbach? Is this another false dawn or is their return to glory imminent?
Much will depend on their ability to hold onto Marko Marin, who didn’t live up the hype, but exceeded it. It was like hearing all about Heath Ledger as the Joker and then going to see Dark Knight only to realize that your friends had undersold him. Watching Gladbach’s performance against Werder, it would seem that this young side is more about a return to glory if Luhukay, Marin and the supporting cast can be kept in place. They are a brilliant defending side, with an acute timing for a tackle. They broke up play in the middle, forced Werder outside and then smothered their forwards so that they were able to neutralize the most lethal attack in Germany.
Let’s take a look back at the week that was.
1) Michael Bradley
The young American international joined the team from Heerenveen of the Dutch Eredivisie near the close of the transfer window. While, it is a fantastic signing for the Foals, it isn’t obvious what the plans for the versatile midfielder are at this juncture. While his scoring record in Holland was impressive and speaks towards his box-to-box abilities, he has often been deployed as a holding midfielder for the US National team. It could be that he is deployed along side Alberman to form a potent double pivot. Or he could play deep and run onto the ball, with Rob Friend’s ability to hold the ball providing him the same scoring opportunities that Daniel Alves did at Heerenveen. He is joining a team that should play well to his strengths. And in return he provides options in the midfield for the former champs to help their push to stay up.
2) Gal Alberman
The reason Bradley won’t see sole DM duties is due to the dogged play of the Israeli international, who just joined recently. I had really looked forward to watching Gladbach’s first game because of Marko Marin, but there were more than a few players that pleasantly surprised me after their victory over Werder Bremen. This ball winner was definitely high on the list of players that impressed. He shadowed superstar Diego for the entire game, leaving him no room in the middle to create and forcing the Bundesliga’s biggest stars to move to the wings to have any effect on the game. He is also technically gifted, tactically astute and calm on the ball. I don’t think it was coincidence that his substitution was followed by both Werder goals. If this type of performance becomes the norm, he might just be considered the best DM in the Bundesliga by year’s end.
3) Karim Matmour
He is another new signing in attack. This was his first start and he played in the right-hand channel to great effect. He set up the second goal and scored the first. But he was provided the perfect counterbalance to Marin so that Werder couldn’t focus on just one side of the pitch when defending. He was able to move to the left when Marin moved right and still have some positive input on the game.
4) Christofer Heimeroth
Brilliant game! He had 12 saves and wasn’t at fault for either goal. He got a hand on the first goal to save it as it had deflected towards goal. Unfortunately at a stretch he could only palm it out of goal, leaving it for Pizarro to clean up. The second goal was a brilliant free kick from Diego. Other than one dropped ball on the goal line that cost them nothing, he was flawless. And it is just one more reason that the Bundesliga is spoiled rotten with great keepers.
To be fair, the defense seems to be settling after the opening game shelling. Daems and Brouwers kept Pizarro and Almeida/Rosenborg in check throughout the game. It wasn’t until they lost the shielding of Alberman and Schaaf went to three forwards that they started to panic and found themselves vulnerable at times. Even so, they were only culpable for the first.
5) Marko Marin
I have contacted Interpol. After Gladbach kidnapped Lionel Messi, dyed his hair and forced him to play, it was time somebody did the right thing. What a revelation this kid is. In a league blessed with fantastic #10, great wingers and phenomenal forwards, he has all the attributes to be the best of them. If Manchester City isn’t putting a 40 million bid on him in January, I’ll eat my hat (it’s a chocolate hat). This kid has speed and skill to equal the diminutive Argentine. He has the same low center of gravity to offset his size in a physical league. He can play in the middle and on the right as well as in his natural position. He made two second half crosses with his right foot that would have made Beckham jealous. Oh and he can defend. In a nutshell, he’s the complete package, and his exclusion from the Euro’s might well have cost Germany the title.
And yes, just like Heath Ledger, all my hype won’t make up for your first experience. Go! Watch! Revel!