The first half of the season was a rollecoaster of emotions for Borussia Mönchengladbach. After five games they were bottom and saying goodbye to former coach Lucien Favre, whereupon they won eight of their next ten league matches to finish 2015 fourth in the table.
With four goals and one assist, USA international Fabian Johnson was one of the league’s standout players. In an exclusive interview with bundesliga.com, the 28-year-old speaks about carrying on his excellent form, working under new coach Andre Schubert and his ambitions for the rest of the season.
bundesliga.com: Fabian Johnson, looking back on 2015, was it the best year of your career?
Fabian Johnson: Yes, I think that’s about right. In the winter – so a year ago – things were difficult for me, but thankfully that changed. We had a fantastic second half to the [2014/15] season and qualified for the Champions League.
bundesliga.com: Things are going well for you at your club, and you also finished second in the award for the best USA player in 2015. Did you see that coming?
Johnson: I didn’t, to be honest. I actually didn’t think that much about achieving something like that, but I’m obviously delighted. But they were also team achievements, though. If you’re successful as part of a team, you also look better individually.
bundesliga.com: In the Hinrunde, we heard a lot about ‘the Gladbach run’. Can you explain to us what it was about?
Johnson: I just think our self-confidence increased every time we won a game. We’re also getting more comfortable with the new playing style, we feel good and we’re enjoying it. It was especially important that we had the right quality in the squad to be able to compensate for the absentees we had.
bundesliga.com: Nevertheless, in football it is difficult to remain consistent over a long period of time. How did Gladbach manage that?
Johnson: Everyone wants to be successful. We’re athletes, we’re ambitious and we want to win every game. It doesn’t matter if we’re playing Bayern or any other team. We showed we wanted to win in every match, even if we went behind.
bundesliga.com: How much of the recent success is down to coach Andre Schubert?
Johnson: A lot of it is. He makes sure we’re informed about the opposition and tells us how we can beat them. Obviously that makes things easier for us because we know exactly how we’re meant to play. It’s great fun playing under Andre Schubert.
bundesliga.com: How far can Gladbach go?
Johnson: That’s a good question. Our aim is to get back into Europe. We now know how nice it is to play there, be it in the Champions League or the Europa League. It’s really enjoyable playing there and we’re determined to qualify again next year.
bundesliga.com: Are Gladbach ready for the Champions League?
Johnson: I think we played well in the Champions League. We had a difficult group but nevertheless gave a good account of ourselves. Most people probably underestimated us but unfortunately at the end our results we’re quite good enough.
bundesliga.com: Were you able to learn from those games and develop as a team?
Johnson: Definitely. There’s always just a small difference when you’re playing a top side from Europe or from the Bundesliga. It’s even more noticeable that small details make a difference and I think we’re progressed a good deal.
bundesliga.com: You have already laced your boots for other Bundesliga clubs. Why are you playing so well for Gladbach now?
Johnson: That’s a good question. I’m on a good run at the moment, and I get on well with my team-mates here – as I did at my other clubs too. Being at Wolfsburg was difficult for me because I didn’t play much in the two years I was there and I had a lot of different coaches. It wasn’t a good way for my career to start. Thankfully I was able to establish myself at Hoffenheim and now at Gladbach things are going very well for me.
bundesliga.com: So would you say you are in the form of your life?
Johnson: Yes, maybe. But I’m also benefitting from very good team performances.
bundesliga.com: What is your preferred position? You played in several under Lucien Favre…
Johnson: Right now I’d say in left midfield. That’s where I’ve played for the last 18 months and I’m comfortable there. I’ve got a good partnership with Oscar Wendt on that flank. I’m used to playing there and I know where I need to run and where I need to play tactically. Obviously it’s easier for a player if he has a fixed position.