Mönchengladbach - With a sixth-place finish and a return to the international arena in the play-off round of the UEFA Europa League, Borussia Mönchengladbach's longer-term revitalisation under Lucien Favre continues to gather momentum. On Wednesday (23 July), two key new signings, full-back Fabian Johnson and goalkeeper Yann Sommer, went through their first gentle paces as Foals players.
Defence first for Johnson
After completing the obligatory lactate test among others, Johnson spoke with the assembled press at the Borussia Park, first confirming that he had long since recovered from a thigh muscle strain suffered in the USA's World Cup Round of 16 meeting with Belgium and is now “going flat-out to catch up on the three weeks [of preparations] I've missed as quickly as possible. It's a fresh challenge, especially with Gladbach competing in the UEFA Europa League.”
The Munich native, who came up through the ranks at local club TSV 1860 and spent two years at VfL Wolfsburg before making his big-time breakthrough with 1899 Hoffenheim, is a dynamic and highly versatile player in the modern mould. Pressed on his favourite position though, he did admit that “I feel most comfortable at right-back. That's where I produced my at the World Cup in Brazil. But it goes without saying I'll give it my best shot, whichever position I'm asked to play.”
Renowned as well for his willingness to get forward, the 26-year-old was nonetheless at pains to stress that “a right-back's first priority is to keep things tight in defence. But sure, if it's what the coach wants I've no objections to getting forward.” Which is one thing Sommer will not be doing, other than under the most extreme circumstances. Gladbach announced they would be signing the 25-year-old Swiss custodian in tandem with their confirmation of Marc-Andre ter Stegen's imminent departure.
Sommer a keeper in the ter Stegen mould
The young Germany international is now plying his trade at the Camp Nou and Sommer was swift to praise him as “a very complete goalkeeper. I'm not looking to make people at Borussia forget him, I just want to be a good keeper for the team. And I'm not putting myself under any pressure as Marc's successor.”
That said, the former FC Basel fans' favourite conceded that his proactive style of play is “similar to what Marc-Andre ter Stegen was doing here. I think it's very important these days for a goalkeeper to be comfortable on the ball. You're instigating attacks as well and you need to have a bit of self-confidence about that, without taking too many risks.” Indeed, in the risk-taking domain Gladbach have been stocking up with equal diligence, signing up Andre Hahn and Ibrahima Traore and acquiring Thorgan Hazard as well on a year's loan. From front to back, Favre's revamped Foals are looking good for another push on the top six.