Fabian Johnson's celebration after netting Gladbach's opener against Paderborn signified his relief at finally finding his niche in Lucien Favre's side (©Imago)
Fabian Johnson's celebration after netting Gladbach's opener against Paderborn signified his relief at finally finding his niche in Lucien Favre's side (©Imago)

Settled Johnson ready to scale new heights with Gladbach

Mönchengladbach - Matchday 23 was one of welcome firsts for Borussia Mönchengladbach. Lucien Favre’s side tightened their grip on third place with a first win of the season after a midweek European fixture, while the victory over SC Paderborn 07 at the Borussia Park was also their first by a 2-0 scoreline this campaign. Undoubtedly the most eye-catching first, though, was ’s maiden goal for the club.

Injury-free and firing

"I’m obviously delighted with the goal," the USA international told borussia.de afterwards. "But the most important thing is that we put in a good display as a team and won the game." As highlighted by his relieved celebration, however, it was a strike that signified Johnson has finally found his niche at Gladbach. "Fabian played really well," said Favre after the victory. "He can score with his left and his right foot."

Such two-footedness has perhaps been more of a curse for the 27-year-old so far in his Borussia-Park career. Offering an option on either flank at full back or as a winger, it was only against Paderborn, when deployed nominally on the left of midfield, that the former TSG 1899 Hoffenheim star was finally able to demonstrate his full array of talents. His pace and directness caused no end of problems after he broke the deadlock in the 18th minute, and it was a performance which culminated in the cross for Gladbach’s second goal, scored by Patrick Herrmann, ten minutes from time.

It’s not just his versatility that has stymied Johnson’s Gladbach career, however. Repeated achilles injuries, which disrupted his Hinrunde, finally seem to have disappeared. "I came through the winter training camp injury-free," he added, "so I’m hoping that it keeps going as well as this for me." Indeed, it isn't just Johnson for whom things are going well, either. "The victory was hugely important for us," he explained, "particularly because it’s put us in an excellent position for the final stretch of the season."

'We're going to fight'

Having established a four-point gap over fourth-placed Bayer 04 Leverkusen, Gladbach are not so much knocking on the door of a first UEFA Champions League qualification since 2011/12 but are in fact close to hammering it down. "Obviously, we’re going to fight to hold onto this position right to the end of the season," continued Johnson, his feet firmly on the ground. "That will be a lot of work, though. We have plenty of games ahead of us and will have to give it our all and see what happens."

While Johnson may be taking the final stretch of the campaign one game at a time, judging by the noise made after the final whistle on Sunday, Gladbach’s devoted fanbase, brought up on successful European adventures, certainly believe that anything is possible for Favre’s high-flying Foals. With Johnson having found his niche at the club and in this sort of scintillating form, who would blame them?