Borussia Mönchengladbach had "Qualify for Europe" as a target at the beginning of the season, and as we sit at the winter break, they appear well on their way to accomplishing this feat. Lucien Favre has pulled the right strings all season long and deserves a lot of credit for molding this team into what they are today.
What Went Right
Many expected that Gladbach would be challenging for a spot in next season's Champions League, but I think few would have picked them to be sitting in third place through the winter break. While they may be only four points out of second place, they're also only four points away from finding themselves in seventh place. Favre has Gladbach primed and ready to enter Europe next season.
Eight Match Unbeaten Streak
Gladbach ran an eight match unbeaten streak to end 2013 to the delight of their supporters. It included wins over Schalke, Hamburg, and Eintracht Frankfurt and draws with Mainz and Wolfsburg. They racked up 20 out of 24 points which was bested only by Bayern Munich. If they can put together another run like this in the second half of the season, they'll be a shoo-in for Europe.
While his stats aren't gaudy with five goals and four assists, there is no doubting that this team will go as Juan Arango goes. The Peruvian midfielder has started all 17 games in the first half of the season and has led this team to their impressive third place standing thus far. He's the heart of the team. His contract expires at the end of the season, and he's pressing Gladbach for only a one year extension. With it looking like they're going to be in the Champions League next year, it would be wise to do whatever it takes to keep him around for another season.
Gladbach brought in Max Kruse and Raffael this summer, and they are two of the most productive signings so far. They've combined for 17 goals and 10 assists in the first 17 games of the season. The two have been aided by Juan Arango and Patrick Herrmann, and there's no questioning that Gladbach have one of the most fearsome front four in the entire Bundesliga.
What Went Wrong
Marc Andre Ter Stegen Is Leaving
The goalkeeper rejected Gladbach's last contract extension offer and appears to be on his way to FC Barcelona. Ter Stegen has been excellent over the last few season for Lucien Favre, and his transfer is a loss for the Bundesliga. However, Gladbach will get a good fee for him, and they are primed to invest at least part of that money in a quality replacement. The early rumors are that they have their eyes set on Eintracht Frankfurt's Kevin Trapp and Freiburg's Oliver Baumann. Either would be an adequate replacement for Ter Stegen.
Struggles Away From Home
Gladbach have been impressive at home, but their road record is nothing to be excited about. They've only managed to pick up 8 out of a possible 24 points in road matches. If they have hopes on securing a spot in next season's Champions League, they must improve their record away from home.
Second Half Outlook
The second half is very bright for Borussia Mönchengladbach as long as they can stay healthy. An injury or two could permanently derail this club as they go into the latter stages of the season. However, there's no reason that they shouldn't keep going at their current pace and will find themselves in a battle for a Champions League place until the very bitter end.