MOTM: Famana Quizera
Honorable mentions: Wolf, Embolo, Müsel, Borngard
A slightly sleepy start, a slightly shaky defence, but an ultimately comfortable win that gave new signings and youngsters a chance to show what they can do, with Embolo, Quizera, Wolf and Villalba getting the goals
What we learned
All lessons from any pre-season game come with the caveat that it is only pre-season. Fitness is the priority, teams are always experimental and the opposition is not the highest quality. But here are a few observations from the Verl game.
Famana Quizera looks like the perfect prospect for a Gladbach team. In a number ten role in the second half, he showed the ability to drop deep into midfield but also run beyond the strikers ahead of him. He possesses fabulous technique and plenty of energy.
Plus, he scored a glorious goal.
There were two special things about Quizera’s strike. Firstly, it comes from his high pressing, harrying the goalie into a mistake in a way that will please coach Marco Rose as much as the shot itself. And then, when he’s in position to to take the chance, the lob is perfectly executed. The cliché is that lobs like that are audacious, cheeky, outlandish. But Quizera’s shot was simple, rational, inevitable. He did what was required to score from the position he was in, and, as the ball drifted over the goalie and into the net, it was clear he had turned what had seemed an implausible way to score into the most straightforward-looking thing in the world.
Four becomes three
Let’s talk formations. Not only did the entire playing eleven change between first and second half, but so did the system. Rose deployed a familiar 4-2-3-1 in the first half, with exceptionally attacking fullbacks when in possession. Breel Embolo generally played through the middle – sometimes drifting wide to switch with Ibrahima Traoré, sometimes dropping deep – and took his goal well, even if Verl defenders were falling over themselves, quite literally, to let his shot trickle in.
The system in the second half was like a strange premonition – not necessarily of what Rose will use this season, but of another team playing later on Wednesday. Theoretically a back five, Ramy Bensebaini and Stefan Lainer pushed so high from wing-back (as the fullbacks did in the first half) that it was a 3-4-1-2, with more than a shade of the system Atalanta would deploy against PSG in the champions league. However, while Papu Gomez will drift wide into pockets of space for the Italian side, forward Hannes Wolf was the one who was happy to pull wide on the right. The number 10, Quizera, also ran beyond Lars Stindl, who was, as ever, happy to drop deep and turn provider. That Stindl laid on Wolf for his goal on the left hand side of the box shows the fluidity that the system provides in attack.
Attack vs Defence
Gladbach looked a lot better in attack than in defence. That’s not a particular problem at this stage of pre-season. It’s much harder to fling together a set of defenders with a goalie and get them co-ordinated than it is to ask a set of attackers to score goals against third tier opposition. It’s not shown in the highlights above, but Zlatko Janjić had an unbelievable miss for Verl early in the second half, and with first half chances too, they could have had a few goals. Janjić miss aside, the back three of Michael Lang, Nico Elvedi and Matthias Ginter did give some extra solidity compared to the first half’s line-up. A few Gladbach defenders could be well suited to a back three. Whether Lang has a future at the club is a bit ambiguous, but surely he has a better chance getting in the team at right-sided centre-back than as a right-back, where Lainer is the clear first choice. It could also give openings for Gladbach’s young defenders who would struggle to break into a settled Bensebaini-Elvedi-Ginter-Lainer backline.
It wasn’t just Quizera who impressed. Torben Müsel was a bright spark in a otherwise sleepy first half: combining nicely with Traoré, showing deft touches in midfield, and sometimes rotating with Embolo up top. Defender Louis Beyer had one bad turnover which led to a Verl chance, but probably would prefer a chance playing alongside the aforementioned first-choice defenders. Both he and Jordi Borngard could thrive in a back three, and Borngard, in a ten minute cameo coming on for Lang, showed adventurousness, composure and his skill on the ball in stepping out of defence and going on a mazy run to set up Villalba’s goal. With lots of first-teamers still missing, Kaan Kurt, Jan Olschowsky, Rocco Reitz and Conor Noss all also featured, and it will be fun to see more of them in the rest of pre-season.