|Photo: Borussia Mönchengladbach|
Borussia Mönchengladbach have been one of the most exciting attacking sides in world football this season. The performances internationally speak for themselves, with Marco Rose’s side scoring the second most of any team in the Champions League this season, and sitting top of a group that features Inter Milan, Real Madrid, and Shakhtar Donetsk. Although much of the plaudits have gone to the attacking talents of Stindl, Thuram, and Plea, the combination of Neuhaus and Kramer in the midfield has been invaluable in Die Fohlenelf's success.
Having spent much of last season on the bench, considered incapable of adapting to Rose’s demanding counter pressing system, Kramer has now started all but 1 game in all competitions this season. Kramer continues to prove an adept replacement in Zakaria’s absence, with a MOTM display against Augsburg last weekend topped off with another brilliant midweek display to give Gladbach their second win in the Champions League Groupstages.
With an increase in performance on the pitch, perhaps Christoph Kramer should be a name back on Jogi Löw’s radar. Following a disastrous defeat at the hands of Spain last Tuesday, Germany remain far from the fluent side that lifted the World Cup in 2014. With Löw unsettled on his midfield heading into the Euros this summer, and key midfield axiom Joshua Kimmich sustaining a long term knee injury, perhaps a place has opened up for Christoph Kramer to fill.
Although a World Cup winner with the German national team in 2014, a final which Kramer will not remember much of after being forced off after 31 minutes following a concussion, the 29-year old defensive midfielder has never really been a fixture in Löw’s plans, starting just 5 matches for the national team across his career. Now back to his best, looking fitter, and quicker than ever before, Kramer will be hoping for another shot for his country.
Kramer has undergone quite a revival in the last 6 months, adapting his style from a deep lying patrolling 6, to a combative box to box midfielder. In the past, Kramer would often dictate possession from deeper positions and look to shield the backline from the opposition's creative midfielder. Now, he is often instigating Gladbach’s high pressing system, unafraid to leave the midfield to address danger by pressing a centerback or fullback if beneficial to the team.
Long regarded as a player with a footballing brain capable of hiding his physical deficiencies, Kramer has added to his strengths on the ball with an engine befitting of Rose’s relentless running football. Although far from the road runner that is Gladbach’s right back Stefan Lainer, Kramer is popping up all around the pitch, in and out of possession.
Kramer continues to bring composure on the ball however, capable of setting the tempo of Gladbach's attack and making sure that the full throttle defensive efforts don't turn into frantic football when in possession. With a 90.4% pass completion in the Champions League, Kramer is once more showcasing his ability to dictate the tempo of the game at the very highest level.
With Löw still relying on a player like Toni Kroos to pull strings from deep, Kramer will not be given a starting role if he is recalled to the fray. However, if Kramer were to be recalled he would help the side maintain defensive solidity, whilst also pressing the opposition high up the field to create turnovers near the opposition goal.
We have already seen another Gladbach midfielder in Florian Neuhaus come into Löw’s side and leave a positive impression, scoring on his debut and being amongst the best on the pitch in his second appearance against the Czech Republic. Although Löw will probably have place for only one of them in his final roster, with Neuhaus likely preferred due to his long term prospects and recent national team performances, Kramer’s world cup experience could give him the edge over his younger counterpart.
Ultimately Kramer’s inclusion in a roster for the Euro’s may be a step too far, and instead one should just embrace the resurgence Kramer is experiencing under Rose’s leadership this season. Perhaps it is even for the best, with the reintroduction of a 29-year old to the national team picture a step in the wrong direction for a nation in the middle of a rebuilding phase following a disastrous World Cup in 2018. Nevertheless, Kramer’s name should be in contention if he is able to continue to perform at the level he has for Gladbach this season. If Kramer remains a fixture in a Borussia side that go deep in the Champions League, he may just become too large a figure for Löw to ignore when the Euros roll around this summer.
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