MOTM: Rocco Reitz
Honorable mentions: Lainer, Wolf
Paderborn posed the sternest test so far of the pre-season, but it was a match that Die Fohlen navigated with another clean sheet. The trend of playing better in the second half – and playing better when Hannes Wolf and Stefan Lainer are on the pitch – continued, as the Austrians got the goals here.
What We Learned
Reitz on time
Discussing Gladbach’s transfers this summer, sporting director Max Eberl made an interesting comment:
In Fabian Johnson, Tobias Strobl and Raffael, we have lost three players who provided us with plenty of depth. By bringing in Hannes Wolf and Valentino Lazaro we have covered these losses and increased the competition for places
His point – that during a pandemic a club should not be unduly profligate after having asked the players already there to cut their wages – was both logical and laudable. But his maths seemed a little off. Wolf replaces Raffael’s creativity and potency from deep attacker. Lazaro replaces Johnson’s versatility on the wings. But there is a third player, Strobl, with no obvious replacement coming in. Even if Eberl says Lazaro can play as a six or an eight, he can’t be everywhere at all times.
A more logical solution for depth in the middle of the park is from within. Eberl may well have thought that two players could replace the three departures, because the third new player is already at the club.
Enter Rocco Reitz. Yet again he played in the centre of midfield in a second half that Gladbach dominated. Yet again his range of passing and intelligence on the ball was demonstrated, as he provided a glorious assist for Lainer’s goal.
Reitz is by no means the same exact profile of footballer as Strobl, but if anything is more suited to Marco Rose’s style of play, and the extra cover that Strobl could provide in defence will also be provided by Louis Beyer. Even if the loans for Wolf and Lazaro represent the extent of Borussia’s incomings this summer, it would be wrong to think that the squad as a whole has lost depth if it gives opportunities to the likes of Reitz.
Playing up the Lainer
In scoring his second goal in three games (plus with his involvement in the first goal), right-back Stefan Lainer underlined his importance to Gladbach’s attack. Here, Lainer was playing as a right wing-back. While Rose likes his wide defenders to push on regardless of whether he plays two or three central defenders, it is possible that the extent to the coach is using a three man defence in this pre-season is with a view of giving Lainer more attacking licence without leaving the defence overly exposed, as they could be versus Bundesliga opposition. Certainly, having Michael Lang backing him up versus Paderborn meant Lainer could attack in a more carefree manner.
Lazaro has spoken about how much he enjoys play with Lainer, which poses an interesting question. Lazaro would seem to suit a wing-back system, but will that limit his ability to combine with Lainer? Presumably, if Lazaro and Lainer play in the same system, they will either be wing-backs on opposite flanks, or they will be RB and RM in a system using four-man defence. It will be very interesting to see how they work together. Lazaro could play at RW, ahead of a RWB Lainer in a 3-4-3, but that would entail Rose dropping a more attacking forward and would seem overly conservative for him, especially how many great options he has in such positions.
If Rose is looking to release Lainer going forward, and wants three central defenders to provide cover, then it could mean sacrificing the possible combinations with Lazaro on the right-wing. However, if Lainer plays in a four man defence, it is possible Lazaro himself can provide the cover Rose needs from the wing, by dropping in when Lainer pushes on. The understanding they have might not be purely attacking, and Lazaro’s defensive instincts compared to other wing options could mean that Rose gets the extra cover he needs to unleash Lainer’s attacking impulses, without resorting to a back three.
Lazaro was not used in Saturday’s friendly, and it will be exciting to see where he slots in when he is available.