A Changing of the Guard on the Gladbach Left?

“Come in number 17, your time is up.” This is not the call from a rowing boat attendant at a boating lake on the Hardter See in Mönchengladbach, but rather what might be about to be called out soon to Oskar Wendt at the Borussia Park. Since 2011 Swedish fullback Oskar Wendt has been an almost guaranteed starter at left-back for Borussia Mönchengladbach, but after eight seasons of hegemony, the 33-year-old might be set for a serious challenge to his place in the Fohlen back line from new signing Ramy Bensebaini.

Mr. Reliable

Such has been Wendt’s consistency at left-back, that some Gladbach fans of a certain age would struggle to name another left back other than Belgian Filip Daems, who occupied the position for a decade from 2005. Last season Oskar Wendt overtook Daems as Borussia’s foreign player with the most Bundesliga appearances- as of today he has racked up 198 Bundesliga appearances and 247 in all competitions (third on the list is Allan Simonsen).

Much has changed down the years at Mönchengladbach, but one constant has been the presence of Oskar Wendt at left back with coaches Lucien Favre, André Schubert, and Dieter Hecking all relying on the former Göteborg and Copenhagen fullback. Surprisingly, Wendt is not every Gladbach fan’s cup of tea, with an unspectacular style that verges on the boring. Some claim a lack of real competition is the reason for his longevity, while others defend reliability over flare. It’s the old Swedish Volvo over the Korean Hyundai argument.

Capped 28 times by Sweden, Wendt retired from international football in March 2017 to concentrate on club football. His contract expires at the end of the current season, but it has been mooted that an extension is on the cards. Anyone worth their alt in the fans hearts has their own song and Wendt is no different- be warned it is catchy.

The new kid on the block

No we’re not talking Jordan Knight or Donnie Wahlberg, but Algerian youngster Ramy Bensebaini. Having not really had any competition of note for his spot in the team, Wendt will now face a real battle with the new signing from Rennes. The 24-year-old fullback won both the Coupe de France and the African Cup of Nations last season, so is a player clearly on the rise.

The tall defender operates primarily at left-back, but can also operate as a central defender if necessary. He began his career at Belgian side Lierse in 2014/15. A move to Ligue 1 side Montpellier followed, before he was signed by Rennes, which whom he won the French Cup last season by surprisingly beating PSG. Gladbach splashed out a reported €8 million to secure his services with a contract until the end of June 2023.

In terms of playing style Bensebaini has been likened to Real Madrid’s Marcelo due to his desire to get forward and turn defence quickly into attack. He is definitely an attacking full-back, often seen overlapping to join in the attack. He is fiercely competitive in the tackle and a real change to the Wendt playing style.

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“Ramy is the player we have still been looking for in our squad. He can play as a  left-back or central defender and brings a lot of experience with him from three successful years at a very good club in Ligue 1,” said Borussia’s sporting director Max Eberl on his signing.

The player himself believes the stage is set for him to challenge the veteran Wendt for the left back berth. “I spoke with Marco Rose and Max Eberl beforehand and they both explained to me what Borussia stands for and how they intend to progress in the future, and it really suits me” he said. “Furthermore, Borussia is a huge club in Germany, and one where I would like to take the next step in my career.

I’m very comfortable on the ball and enjoy playing it out from the back. However, as a full-back, you are of course primarily responsible for your defensive actions. I enjoy defending my own goal and hope that I will be a difficult player to come up against in the Bundesliga.”

Oskar Wendt vs Ramy Bensebaini. Let battle commence.

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Mathew Burt

A year spent living in Bremen got Mathew hooked on the Bundesliga with regular visits to the Weser Stadion getting in the way of his studies. Back in the UK now, he still keenly follows the Grün-Weißen and German football in general. Follow him on Twitter @matburt74.

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