Favre's Foals will be put to the test at Bayern

Posted by Susie Schaaf

Dennis Grombkowski/Bongarts/Getty ImagesLucien Favre has had to rebuild the Foals this season

The 1970s were a Golden Age for German football. The West German national team had secured victories in the 1972 Euro and 1974 World Cup competitions, Gerd Mueller recieved the Golden Shoe in 1970 and 1972, and Bayern Munich won the European Cup (now Champions League) three years in a row (1974-76).

Domestically, Bayern won three successive Bundesliga titles (1972-1974) and a DFB Pokal title in 1971. Their main rivals in that decade would be Borussia Moenchengladbach: Winners of the Bundesliga five times (1970-'71 and 1975-'77), the Pokal once (1973), the UEFA Cup twice (1975, '79) and runners-up in the European Cup (1977)- losing to eventual best friends of the Foals, Liverpool.

The 1980s would see a gradual downgrade in 'Gladbach's fortunes as they were forced to sell players to keep their books straight, but still managed upper-half finishes in the Bundesliga table. However, the 1990s would be less kind as the Foals slipped lower and lower, finally relegated to the 2. Bundesliga in 1999.

Spending two years in the second division, and then struggling mightily when promoted, they opened a new stadium, Borussia Park, in 1994, with the hopes revenues would grow, and with that, increased success in top-flight football. It was a mixed bag, though, as 'Gladbach was relegated once again in 2007.

Lucien Favre would take charge of die Fohlen in 2011 while they sat bottom of the table with 16 points in 22 matchdays. An immediate improvment in form saw the team win their two-legged relegation playoff battle against VfL Bochum; staying in the first division. And then the darnedest thing happened: Favre and his men would come in fourth place in 2012; astonishing a nation, and famously beating Bayern Munich at home and away.

So, what's going on with The Foals this season? Dumped in to the Europa League after failing to qualify for Champions League competiton, crashing out of the Pokal in the second round, and currently sitting in 8th place in the Bundesliga; Favre's men have gone from darlings to has-beens in just one Hinrunde.

The obvious answer can be traced to three men: Marco Reus, Roman Neustadter and Dante. With their transfers out to Borussia Dortmund, Schalke 04 and Bayern Munich, respectively, Lucien has had it rough trying to replace his best attacker, midfielder and defender all at once.

Neustadter was the heart of the 'Gladbach midfield - similar in playing style to Bastian Schweinsteiger- and while the Reus transfer freed up a lot of money, Favre hasn't found anyone to directly replace him. Granit Xhaka is forced to play further up the pitch, while Havard Nordtveit continues to not impress.

Reus was always going to be a talent, but Favre turned him in to the sparkling player he is today. Luuk De Jong, Reus' replacement, is slowly settling in to his job, but to compare one to the other would be grossly unfair to Luuk.

With the absence of Neustadter and Reus, also went the fluidity of the 'Gladbach attack, forcing Favre to sometimes settle for a more traditional 4-4-2 instead of the counterattacking 4-2-3-1. It wouldn't be that much of an issue except for the defense. . . . and the transfer of Dante to Bayern bears that out.

The Foals let in 24 goals in 34 matches last season. They have already surpassed that this year with the season not even half-played, allowing 25 and scoring 24. Goalkeeper Marc-Andre ter Stegen is now faced with an onslaught of strikers due to individual errors by Martin Stranzl, and a holding midfield in Xhaka and Nordtveit that get caught with their pants down.

Dante was 'Gladbach's rock. Their last man standing. And now he belongs to Bayern. Among the plethora of talent Munich brought in over the summer, the Brazilian will bear out to be their best signing.

It's not all over for Lucien and the Foals. In eighth in the Bundesliga, they are clawing for European competition, and having finished second in Group C, they advance to the knockout stages of Europa League competition. I'm fairly sure Favre can take the winter break to sort this all out - indeed I'd never bet against him. I would just prefer it not to happen on Matchday 17 Friday night in Munich.

Follow Susie on twitter @fussballsusie

ESPN Conversations