22 Striker Borussia Monchengladbach Sweden
It is the scoring record of a striker that is ultimately held up as the litmus test for their inclusion in any team. A manager in desperate need of a goal and presented with a choice of front man will almost always plumb for the guy with the better recent record to produce the magic.
It’s why goals early in a career – no matter how they go in – can ensure that young strikers are given a decent chance of kicking on and proving they are worthy of a regular place in the first team. Branimir Hrgota did more than enough to earn a fair crack of the whip with a hat-trick on his first Bundesliga start for Borussia Monchengladbach.
Unfortunately such an impressive debut only caused to highlight the problems that still exist in Branimir’s game; and with each appearance he looked else and else like a player suited to Gladbach’s system.
Hrgota wants to be an out-and-out striker; utilising his pace to get in behind defenders and focused on putting the ball in the onion bag. At Gladbach there is a demand on the front two in the team to both score goals and create chances for others. That isn’t Hrgota’s natural game and he hasn’t been able to improve that side of his game enough in the last two years to warrant a regular starting spot.
2015 has been…
…spent on the sidelines. Having failed to properly convince Lucien Favre that he possessed the all-round game to be able to fill-in for or even replace Max Kruse in the Gladbach team, Hrgota’s role under the now departed manager became more and more marginalised.
He was a constant fixture during the Europa League campaign last season but with the general focus of the club on remaining among the very top teams in the Bundesliga and qualifying for the Champions League, he was used to give others a rest rather than to reward his own performances.
Unfortunately things haven’t improved under the new Gladbach boss André Schubert and Hrgota has continued to cut a frustrated figure on the sidelines.
When Branimir grabbed all of the attention for his hat-trick, the excellent Raphael Honigstein noted in the Guardian: '"I congratulate the scout who has discovered this player [Hrgota],’ said Favre after the final whistle, but the Swiss coach also tried to downplay the hype. Statistics are on his side, in that respect: Hrgota wasn't the first to score three times in Germany's top flight on his debut, but the seventh.
The full list, published by Kicker magazine… serves as a cautious reminder that greatness doesn't always follow such auspicious beginnings. Icons (Hermann Ohlicher, Olaf Marschall) rub shoulders with one-hit wonders (Jurgen Degen, Adhemar, Martin Fenin) and 1860 Munich's Engelbert Kraus, who sits somewhere in between.'
30 months on from that hat-trick and Hrgota sits among the one-hit wonders. He needs to spend the majority of the next year on the pitch somewhere – almost certainly that shouldn’t be at Borussia Park – to prove it wasn’t a one-off.
D Not impressing after a very bright start
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