European football has seen some strange results this season. At the time of writing, Barcelona and Manchester City both sit 13th in their domestic tables. Teams like Liverpool can get trounced one week by Aston Villa, then turn it back on again the next. Paris Saint Germain have been beaten by lowly RC Lens, and Real Madrid tasted defeat to Shakthar Donetsk at the fortress Bernabéu. In the Bundesliga, we see similar head-scratching results, like the normally imperious FC Bayern getting hammered by 4-1 by Hoffenheim. The list is endless.
We can muse as to the cause of some of these bizarre scorelines. Fatigue after playing football for large parts of the summer in lieu of a normal pre-season has impacted many players, as has a ridiculously busy international schedule. There is also a case to be made for the influence of fans in the stadium. For example, could Shakthar have beaten Madrid in a packed Bernabéu? Nevertheless, fans of big clubs have been frustrated with the ups and downs this season.
But the most frustrating team in football? It has to be Borussia Mönchengladbach. Perhaps we could make an argument for some of those stylish-but-inconsistent Italian teams like Atalanta and Lazio, but for sheer head-pounding frustration, it could only be Mönchengladbach.
Mönchengladbach have a tighter budget than most
We should begin with a caveat – Borussia Mönchengladbach are not a bad team. Indeed, some might say they are overachievers. The club spent about four million Euros in transfers in the summer, and averaged about 30 million in each of the seasons beforehand. Real Madrid, on whom Mönchengladbach look down upon from the top of UEFA Champions League Group B, regularly spend that combined amount on individual players. But Mönchengladbach know how to deliver a gut punch to fans, and we aren’t only talking about this season.
If you cast your minds back to February 2019, when Gladbach were celebrating a late win against Schalke 04 at the Veltins-Arena. Riding high in second place in the Bundesliga; there was even the suspicion of a title challenge, but a UEFA Champions League spot would suffice. Then the wheels came off. Unbeaten at Borussia-Park up until late February, Mönchengladbach did not win a single home game afterwards. They took 13 points from a possible 42 to finish the season, missing out on 4th place and the coveted Champions League spot to Bayer Leverkusen.
Last season was better, of course, as Mönchengladbach qualified for the UEFA Champions League. They even turned Borussia-Park into a fortress again, only dropping points five times at home and not losing to any side outside the top five. But have those inconsistencies come back to haunt Gladbach this season? Two home wins, albeit good ones against Leipzig and Schalke, is not what fans expected to see in the Bundesliga. When leading 1-0 at home against 10-man Augsburg last week, it seemed almost inevitable that Mönchengladbach would concede – and they duly did. A bounceback 4-1 win at home to Schalke makes things look a bit more respectable at Borussia-Park, but you can almost guarantee they will implode again.
Mönchengladbach make unpredictability an art form
Sure, predicting Bundesliga results is no easy task, and probably more difficult this season, given the conditions we mentioned earlier. But Mönchengladbach have made unpredictability into something of an art form. The 6-0 thumping of a very good Shakthar side in the UEFA Champions League was followed by defeat to Bayer 04 Leverkusen; the disappointing draw with FC Augsburg was followed by another brilliant 4-0 win over Shakthar. In the strangest of seasons, Mönchengladbach seems the hardest team to work out.