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Eberl's quit, Zakaria's gone & Hutter's struggling - Are Borussia Monchengladbach falling apart?

1:00 PM GMT+4 04/02/2022
Max Eberl Borussia Monchengladbach 2019
The Foals were in the Champions League last 16 two seasons ago but now they find themselves struggling in the Bundesliga, so what's gone wrong?

When it was confirmed this time last year that Marco Rose would leave Borussia Monchengladbach to join Borussia Dortmund at the end of the season, Gladbach were seventh in the Bundesliga table and knocking on the door of a Champions League spot.

However, they then lost four straight games before eventually finishing the season in eighth, failing to qualify for Europe altogether.

Replacement head coach Adi Hutter was expected to come in and steady the ship for 2021-22, having overachieved at Eintracht Frankfurt.

Hutter started life at Borussia-Park with an impressive opening-day draw against perennial champions Bayern Munich, but worrying signs began to emerge over the following month as Gladbach lost three of their next four Bundesliga games.

Many put that down to teething problems for the new coach and he looked to have turned things around in the autumn with wins over Borussia Dortmund and Wolfsburg in the league, as well as a 5-0 humiliation of Bayern in the cup.

Since then, though, things could not have gone much worse for Hutter and Borussia Monchengladbach.

Hutter kept his job at the end of the year, despite conceding 17 goals across four consecutive defeats to Koln, Freiburg, RB Leipzig and his former club Eintracht Frankfurt.

Gladbach are now 12th in the Bundesliga table, just three points above the relegation play-off spot. Any other club would have cut ties with their coach.

However, sporting director Max Eberl kept faith in the man he had appointed to succeed Rose before then deciding to quit his own post at the end of last month, dramatically revealing that he no longer wanted "anything to do with football".

Eberl's exit came as quite the shock. He has been the best sporting director in Germany over the past decade, turning Gladbach into a successful team on and off the field.

However, he was charged with overseeing a massive rebuild this season and admitted during the press conference announcing his immediate resignation that he was no longer enjoying his job.

In a bizarre way, some of the club's recent problems are a direct result of his success. Winning games puts players in the shop window and also makes them believe they can compete for trophies elsewhere.

That was certainly the case with Denis Zakaria, who left for Juventus in January, with Eberl cashing in to make €7 million (£5.9m/$8m) on a player whose contract was expiring this summer anyway.

Matthias Ginter is also out of contract in the summer and one of Eberl's last tasks before stepping down was finding a replacement, namely Marvin Freidrich.

It has been speculated that two people could be hired to replace Eberl and temporary replacement Steffen Korell has no desire to take on the role full-time.

The job of the next sporting director(s) will obviously be a difficult one.

Deciding whether to keep faith with Hutter will be an immediate priority, especially given their hugely unpredictable start to 2022: beating Bayern Munich 2-1 in the Allianz Arena before suffering back-to-back 2-1 home defeats in the Bundesliga and getting knocked out of the cup by a second division side.

Should Ginter start at centre-back despite his imminent exit? He was recently dropped for the first time in a league game and they lost, so can they afford not to play him?

Similarly, Marcus Thuram has been expected to leave the club since last summer, but despite interest from Inter and elsewhere, he is still around but now contributing little.

In 2019-20, he had 10 goals and eight assists in the Bundesliga, in 2020-21 he scored eight and created seven more and was naturally in demand in the transfer market.

This season, he has played 14 times in all competitions and contributed neither a goal nor an assist.

Injury has not helped, but those figures are unacceptable for an attacker.

Stefan Lainer and Jonas Hofmann's seasons have also been curtailed by injury, while Florian Neuhaus has been inconsistent, which is probably not being helped by speculation around his own future.

The biggest signing of the summer was the €7.5m (£6.3m/$8.5m) paid to Frankfurt for Hutter, with most of the playing roster left unchanged, meaning they now have the fifth-oldest squad in the Bundesliga.

Zakaria was the first player in two years to be sold for more than €1m (£800,000/$1.1m) and a lot of the players left at the club are on the wrong side of 30.

Dead wood will have to be cleared out, but there is a core group of young players which indicate that the future can still be bright for a team that dominated German and European football in the 1970s and reached the knockout stage of the Champions League as recently as two years ago.

Kouadio Kone has been a brilliant signing from Ligue 1, American teenager Joe Scally does not look out of place in the Bundesliga, Neuhaus is one of Germany's top young midfield prospects, while Yann Sommer remains one of the most reliable goalkeepers in Europe.

Despite their proximity to the drop zone, Gladbach still have 14 games to play and an outside shot of reaching Europe.

However, focusing on their future and writing off this season as a proper rebuild might be the way to go.

Hutter now has two must-win games on the horizon, against Arminia Bielefeld and Augsburg, with former Bayern Munich and Monaco boss Niko Kovac reported as a possible replacement if things continue to go wrong.

The players still have faith in the head coach, with this season's top scorer Hofmann declaring that Hutter still has the "right ideas and solutions".

At the moment, though, Gladbach have got a lot of problems. Finding the right ideas and solutions will be easier said than done.