MOTM: Breel Embolo
Honorable mentions: Lainer, Wolf, Neuhaus, Reitz
Stop me if you’ve heard this one before: a slow first half, an excellent second half, and plenty more to chew over as Marco Rose assesses different systems and players. Lainer(ish), Neuhaus, Embolo and Herrmann got the goals.
What we learned
Same caveats as always with analysing pre-season football. That being said, here are a few observations from the Duisburg game.
The Breel Thing
Borussia came out for the second half with a sense of purpose and an attacking verve that had been pretty much absent in the first half. Breel Embolo was at the heart of it all. He is such an intelligent footballer, and was involved so much in Borussia’s most telling build-up play, that it almost felt as though the goal he was least involved in was the one he scored. His versatility, and his ability to drop deep and link up play, while at the same time providing a focal point, is an unusual skillset but means he can totally dominate games. While Duisburg weren’t the most testing opposition, they had held back Gladbach well enough in the first half. But Embolo best embodied the gulf between the teams after the break.
Second half success
Rose again used two different systems in the two halves, but the other way around to Wednesday. He tried a slightly different 3-4-3 in a goalless first half, and this time it was the second half where he deployed the 4-2-3-1. Gladbach have scored 7 of their 8 goals so far this pre-season in the second half, playing different formations. That suggests that the ability to tear away in the second half might be fitness or quality-based rather than because any particular system is working better than another.
There were some common threads to the two second halves, though. Ginter and Elvedi played in both, though they can’t account for the offensive production. Another defender, Stefan Lainer, has definitely been contributing on that front. His attacking prowess is just far too much for the third tier opposition, be it Verl or Duisburg, and he is just as happy attacking from right back as he is at right wing-back. He scored (despite Duisburg’s best efforts at a goalline clearance that might even constitute creating an own goal) and he has also shown good combination play with Hannes Wolf in both games. For the third goal, Lainer worked the ball to Wolf, who went on a lovely dribble before squaring to Embolo for a simple tap in. The early signs are that these two former RB Salzburg players have an excellent understanding, which Rose has been happy to utilise in both games.
There has been one other player who has played in both second halves where Gladbach have scored such a lot of goals: young Rocco Reitz. Against Duisburg, his vision, passing, and the stability he provided in a double pivot with Florian Neuhaus really stood out, and he was a very composed presence in midfield.
Even though Gladbach lacked attacking bite in the first half vs Duisburg, the combinations between the back three and midfield four looked solid. It was good to see Louis Beyer get gametime as a RCB and Ramy Bensebaini play as a LCB. If Rose does decide to use a back three in the coming season, both players could excel in these positions. Against Verl Bensebaini played as a LWB, but while he can do so, if he plays at centreback, it opens up up a spot for a natural wingback. That becomes particularly interesting when you consider Gladbach have been linked to Inter’s Valentino Lazaro. His versatility means he could slot on to the right wing ahead of Lainer, deepening the Salzburg connection, if Gladbach play a back four. But he also provides the ability to play on either flank at wingback too. With Oscar Wendt now 34, the lack of depth at LWB would seem to be the main knock against playing with a back three at the moment. There are reservations about gambling on a highly-paid Inter flop who struggled to make an impact at Newcastle. But Rose, youth coach at RB Salzburg while Lazaro was busy becoming the youngest player ever to play in the Austrian Bundesliga, could be the man to help resurrect his career now.