A tough game against energetic, physical opposition. Definitely a disappointing result, but probably a helpful competitive test as the season draws nearer. Failing to score over 120 minutes of football against a second tier team has to be a bit of a concern though.
What We Learned
Is this turning into an eternal game?
The 300 fans allowed in to watch the game certainly got their money’s worth, with two 60 minute halves for the football starved fans to feast on. If only what had been served up had been appetising. One might have hoped that such a long game could end BMG’s scoring drought in first halves, but it didn’t quite click. The flat 4-4-2, with Stindl and Embolo both up, helped Gladbach’s pressing game, but the strike partnership didn’t catch fire. Stindl started dropping deeper when the system switched a a back five 35 minutes in, but the attacking fluency was still lacking, and the team were possibly guilty of overplaying the ball a little when they got into promising positions. The longer halves were better for fitness and gave more time to examine different tactics, but in switching system halfway through the first half there was ironically less time to settle into one style of play.
The second half started brighter, with Rocco Reitz continuing his strong pre-season form, launching attacks from deep, and Hannes Wolf getting into dangerous positions. Keanan Bennetts looked bright up front too in a 4-2-3-1. But Greuther Fürth scored a lovely goal well – the first BMG have conceded in pre-season – and Gladbach struggled to get back into it, with the strange dynamic of still having a whole 45 minutes to equalise perhaps giving less of a sense of urgency than there would’ve been in a 90 minute game. Julian Green took his second goal superbly with just over 15 minutes to go, and suddenly the game was gone. Toiling in the first half has been a feature of the pre-season, but it was frankly a concern to see the second-half 11, with many of the components that have excelled in the other games, look so open while generating increasingly fewer chances the other end. As a whole, the game felt like one long slog, but blaming the format for the result feels misplaced. Kleeblatt were also able to change their team at half time, unlike earlier pre-season opponents, but the strength and depth of Gladbach’s squad means surely they should have done a bit better, the usual caveats about pre-season football not meaning a whole lot aside.
It was hard to assess Valentino Lazaro’s game, as he was subbed earlier than expected in the first half with an injury. The game as a whole was much more intense than previous games, and sometimes quite bad-tempered. In terms of building up to a return of competitive football, that’s probably helpful. But with Marcus Thuram, Denis Zakaria, and Alassane Plea yet to return to the pitch from their injuries, coach Marco Rose will be hoping that Lazaro’s injury lay-off isn’t too long, given that he was signed in part to provide depth to start with. With the transfer window open for a while yet, it will be interesting to see whether sporting director Max Eberl reassesses his view that Gladbach’s transfer business is more or less done if the injuries start to pile up. It’s worth noting, though that Nico Elvedi, who was taken off against Paderborn with an injury, was back for this game, so sometimes players aren’t risked even if they pick up the smallest of knocks.