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Gladbach have gone from bottom to top, not only in Germany, but in the continent as a whole, in just months. Goal.com hails Lucien Favre's side for a phenomenal 12-month run

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By Clark Whitney | German Football Editor

At this point last season, Monchengladbach were the punching bag of the Bundesliga. For most visitors, Borussia-Park was like a shooting gallery: the team placed last in Germany had conceded 53 goals in 21 games, an average of over 2.5 allowed per match.

But that all has changed in 2011-12. Gladbach have enjoyed a meteoric rise this season, and are now third in the Bundesliga, three points from the top. But most incredibly, their defensive record is not only the best in Germany, but all of Europe’s top leagues.

No team in England, Germany, Italy, or Spain can match Gladbach’s record of just 12 goals conceded in domestic competition, nor their average per game - truly remarkable given that the Bundesliga is traditionally the highest-scoring league in Europe. The same holds true even when factoring in all competitions. And now the team that seemed hopelessly on the path towards relegation a year ago is now earning high praise: some even claim they could win the Bundesliga.

DEFENSIVE STALWARTS | Europe's best goals-against records
Team
Conceded/Games
(league)

Conceded
per Game

Conceded/Games
(all comps)

Conceded
per Game
Monchengladbach
12/21
0.57
14/24
0.58
Juventus 13/22
0.59
15/25
0.60
Bayern Munich 14/21 0.67 21/33 0.64
Dortmund 14/21 0.67 26/32 0.81
Barcelona 16/22 0.73 30/42 0.71

For Gladbach, the turning point occurred almost a year ago to the day. On February 14, 2011, after a 3-1 loss to St Pauli, Lucien Favre replaced Michael Frontzeck as head coach. It turned out to be a Valentine’s Day dream come true, as the Swiss trainer led his new side out of the bottom of a table, capturing the hearts of fans as Gladbach remarkably managed to avoid relegation in the end-of-year play-off.

COME SO FAVRE

2011-12 THUS FAR
GAMES PLAYED
WINS
DRAWS
LOSSES
WIN PERCENTAGE
GOALS CONCEDED
21
13
4
4
61.9%
12
  ON THIS DATE LAST YEAR
GAMES PLAYED
WINS
DRAWS
LOSSES
WIN PERCENTAGE
GOALS CONCEDED
22
4
4
14
18.2%
56
SINCE FAVRE'S ARRIVAL, FEB. 14, 2011
GAMES PLAYED
WINS
DRAWS
LOSSES
WIN PERCENTAGE
GOALS CONCEDED
33
19
6
8
57.6%
21
After his appointment, Favre made very few changes to his team, at least in terms of line-up. He began to trust youngster Tony Jantschke at right-back ahead of Tobias Levels, and has had an ongoing competition between Martin Stranzl and Roel Brouwers for the second centre-back spot alongside Dante, but that was all. Every other defensive position has remained unchanged, yet Favre has enjoyed phenomenal success, a testament to the tactical quality he has brought.

As Stefan Effenberg asserted on Thursday, Gladbach can no longer be considered a team simply on a run of form: their quality has been consistent for 33 games - one game shy of a full Bundesliga season - since Favre's arrival.

Looking ahead, Gladbach's future is still uncertain. With a 10-point gap separating them from fifth-placed Werder Bremen, a finish in a Champions League spot is almost guaranteed, and an automatic berth as a top-three team is also entirely within the club's reach. But as happened with Dortmund at the end of last season, die Fohlen will lose their brightest star in talismanic attacker Marco Reus. Moreover, defensive midfielder Roman Neustadter will leave on a free transfer, while Dante could opt for a move should a club meet his reported €5 million buy-out clause.

Sporting director Max Eberl has pledged to spend the €17.5m generated from Reus' sale to bring in reinforcements, but with a shortened pre-season on the horizon due to Euro 2012, and uncertainty in the transfer market also a concern, Favre may be forced to do the unthinkable for a second year as he prepares what will surely be a markedly different team to compete on three fronts.

For now, however, Gladbach remain intact and a force to be reckoned with. They are unbeaten against the teams above them in the Bundesliga, having defeated Bayern Munich twice. And on their current pace, they could end the season not only as Europe's best defensive team, but the best in all of Bundesliga history. Hats off to Favre and Gladbach, a Valentine's Day match made in heaven.

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