Jurgen Klopp would never describe himself as a visionary but time has shown that whenever the affable tactician speaks, it’s always worth paying close attention.
While en route to reaching a third European Cup final last season, the Liverpool boss took time from his busy schedule to shower praise upon a former student, Red Bull Salzburg boss Marco Rose whose stock was rising unabated.
Rose, who enjoyed six years playing under Klopp at Mainz 05, has fast become Klopp’s most ardent disciple since hanging up his boots. No campaign was that more explicit in than Salzburg reaching the 2017/18 Europa League semi-finals. Armed with a newish approach – which has come to define the Red Bull family, spearheaded by patriarch Ralf Rangnick – that is laced with analytics, data and unconventional methods, Rose saw his men counter-press towards an unlikeliest of finals.
It also spelt the end of his time in Austria with a pathway to German football all but secured. Their sister club RB Leipzig – which just so happens to be Rose’s hometown club – was the intended destination, but they opted for another impressive young go-getter in Julian Nagelsmann, leaving few alternatives but Klopp, when contacted by Sky Sport Austria earlier this year, was unequivocal in his predicted outcome.
“I trust Marco in everything,” he said. “Marco can have any job and could do any job too, he is really the most hyped (coach) of all at the moment, everyone is asking about you.”
Borussia Mönchengladbach, a great name in German football (figuratively and literally), made their move after parting company with Dieter Hecking following three seasons in charge. Rose’s steadfastness towards playing and promoting youth was no doubt a clincher. Gladbach currently have the Bundesliga’s third-youngest team with an average age of 25.5 years, with Mainz 05 (24.7) and RB Leipzig (24.3) ahead of them.
Since winning their fifth and final Bundesliga crown to date in 1977, the North Rhine-Westphalia-based club have been on the outside looking in and even suffered demotion this century. Rose, regardless of his promise, had no prior expectations coming in; they finished just outside the Champions League places last season (5th) and weren’t bigged up for a championship tilt. However, after their opening seven games, there could soon be a need to change those pre-season targets.
Gladbach, incredibly, sit atop of the German first division. So far, no side has won more games (5) than Rose’s men, with only regional powerhouse Bayern Munich (20), two places below, and Borussia Dortmund (19) outscoring the Foals. Their defence is equally mean, conceding six times, which is only bettered by the league’s only unbeaten side and second-placed Wolfsburg (4).
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When delving into the numbers, it quickly becomes apparent that Gladbach aren’t doing anything out of the ordinary. You wouldn’t describe them as the league’s most aggressive or expansive side. Rose’s team presently average 52.9% possession per game with the vast majority (11) of their 15 goals coming from open play. When it comes to average tackles per 90, they’re 12th out of 18; in terms of interceptions, it’s slightly better (6th), same for passes (5th) and shots (3rd).
But what the former Salzburg boss has done well is utilise his squad effectively while implementing a core group of players. To date, no fewer than eight players (from 19 selected) have featured in each of their opening seven Bundesliga contests, with two — goalkeeper Yann Sommer and midfielder Denis Zakaria — playing every single minute. Matthias Ginter, though, is not far behind having being denied just nine minutes.
Gladbach gallop to the summit 🎥 pic.twitter.com/2JoJs383ee
— Bundesliga English (@Bundesliga_EN) October 9, 2019
At the moment, they’re being led by French winger-cum-striker Alassane Pléa who has bagged four goals, with half of those coming in his last two appearances. In fact, Pléa is turning on the style of late, he notched a goal and assist as Gladbach ran out 3-0 winners at TSG Hoffenheim on September 28th before registering a goal and creating a further two in the 5-1 win over FC Augsburg on October 6 prior to the recent international break.
In the race for the Bundesliga’s ‘assist king’ title, only the only Dortmund whizz-kid Jadon Sancho (5) has been more productive than him. And, as fate would have it, matchday eight sees both go head-to-head in the Borussia derby at the Westfalenstadion, a place where Gladbach last won in March 2014.
That 2-1 triumph against Klopp’s men was masterminded by none other than Lucien Favre, who Rose will be pitting his wits against. If he passes this challenge, then Klopp’s words begin to sound even more prophetic.