As FC Bayern München found out to their cost on Saturday, a team that has nothing to lose and believes only in victory is a dangerous animal.
The champions were beaten for the first time in the league this season by in-form Borussia Mönchengladbach, who extended their unbeaten Bundesliga run under Andre Schubert to ten games (comprising eight wins and two draws) with a resounding 3-1 win at BORUSSIA-PARK.
Johnson has the last laugh
The form of winger Fabian Johnson has been emblematic of Gladbach’s rise to third in the Bundesliga table. Against Bayern, the USMNT international scored his fourth goal in 11 league appearances, having also got on the scoresheet in the Foals’ two recent UEFA Champions League encounters against Juventus and Sevilla FC. Gladbach sporting director Max Eberl was quick to pay tribute to Johnson following Saturday’s victory, stating his belief that Johnson is on the way to becoming a “leading figure” at the club.
After joining Borussia from TSG 1899 Hoffenheim in the summer of 2014, Johnson often found himself on the bench under former head coach Lucien Favre, prompting then Hoffenheim boss Markus Gisdol to suggest that the American international “might come to regret” the move to North Rhine-Westphalia. Things change quickly in football, however: Favre left Gladbach in September, Gisdol was relieved of his duties at Hoffenheim a month later and Johnson is now playing week in, week out – and with distinction.
Gladbach’s jack of all trades
Currently one of the most versatile players in the division, Johnson would markedly improve any squad in the Bundesliga. As strong with his right foot as he is with his left, he can play on either flank - both in defence and in attacking midfield – while his pace and trickery caused even the league’s tightest defence a whole host of problems last weekend. For tactical reasons, Johnson was deployed in a deep-lying midfield role against Bayern rather than on the wing, but the 27-year-old stuck to his task superbly.
After coming through the ranks at Bundesliga 2 side TSV 1860 Munich, Johnson failed to make the breakthrough at VfL Wolfsburg, where he made just 18 appearances in two seasons before moving to Hoffenheim. Now, at Gladbach, Johnson is finally flourishing at a club with ambitions of regular Champions League football. He has never forgotten his roots, though: Following Borussia’s recent 3-3 draw with Hoffenheim in which he scored twice, Johnson was first into the home dressing room to catch up with his old team-mates, including fellow former 1860 graduate Kevin Volland.
‘We need to keep up the hard work’
Borussia’s next Bundesliga assignment is a trip to Bayer 04 Leverkusen, where Johnson is certain – barring injury – to feature in the starting XI once more. Die Werkself are in the midst of their worst run of form since Roger Schmidt took charge in April 2014, winning just one of their last five league matches to slip down to eighth place in the standings.
Though Johnson and Co will be confident of extending their unbeaten run to eleven matches at the BayArena, they will certainly not be taking Bayer lightly. “We’re in a good run of form, we know what we can do and we’re playing with a lot of confidence,” Johnson said in the aftermath of Saturday’s win against Bayern. “But a win like that only gives us three points. It’s important that we keep up the hard work and give 100 per cent in our next game.”