After a shocking start to the season, Bayer Leverkusen are slowly recovering, climbing the table week by week. Standing ninth in the Bundesliga table heading into Matchday 20, Leverkusen’s resurgence has been slow. A young team, two managers and a tough road ahead, we take a look at a promising team making progress.
Bayer Leverkusen: A Young Team Making Progress
Early Season Struggles
Winless after three games, Leverkusen sat at the wrong end of the table. Alongside fellow strugglers, Schalke, the team’s poor start to the season was surprising. Hoping to recover quickly, Leverkusen’s road back to the top half was a long one. The team’s lack of goals, poor defence and lack of maturity saw them win just twice in eight games. A young squad, Leverkusen lacked consistency. Relying heavily on youth, the team often dropped points in winnable games.
The team also experienced their fair share of games which were seen as potential turning points. However, the team failed to produce when it mattered most. Leading league leaders Borussia Dortmund 2-0 at half-time, Leverkusen went on to lose 4-2, a demoralising loss for the team. Making little progress under manager Heiko Herrlich, the club decided to move on. Herrlich was fired on December 23rd, Leverkusen announced his replacement on the same day.
The New Boss
Hiring former Dortmund manager Peter Bosz, Leverkusen headed in a new direction. A club stacked with offensive talent, Bosz is an attack-minded manager. Bringing his favoured 4-3-3 to Leverkusen, Bosz will look to get the most out of his teams attacking players, something he failed to do in Dortmund. Fired by Dortmund after less than one season, Bosz can only hope this group of players adapt to his style of football better this time around. Deploying a 4-3-3, the Dutchman’s preferred formation plays to Leverkusen’s strengths. A team known for its pace out wide, Bosz will look to take full advantage. Pushing the likes of Julian Brandt, Karim Bellarabi and Leon Bailey further forward, Leverkusen will be more aggressive. Striker Kevin Volland will also benefit from Bosz’s arrival. Capable of either playing as a legitimate number nine or as a false nine, Volland is a perfect fit for his new manager.
Defensively there are always question marks when it comes to Bosz. Often accused of just focusing on one end of the pitch, Bosz can neglect his defence at times. Leverkusen knew this coming in, but the risk is worth taking. When you can’t score or defend competently, its rare that you can fix both immediately. Bosz is no defensive mastermind, but at least he doesn’t pretend to be. The Dutchman was hired to help Leverkusen score goals and win games, which is all that matters right now.
As the team makes gradual progress under its new manager, Leverkusen now look to achieve what seemed impossible a few months ago. The club’s main goal each year is to secure European football. Financially beneficial, the club also aims for Champions League or Europa League football in an attempt to keep their best players. Boasting the likes of Jonathan Tah, Kai Havertz and Julian Brandt, securing European football helps keep such talents away from the bigger clubs. Now, despite the team’s awful start to the season, securing European football is still very much on the agenda.
It’s rare that a teenager can be so pivotal to a clubs success but that’s what Leverkusen have in Havertz. Still just 19-years-old, Havertz is one of Germany’s brightest talents. The creative midfielder played a key role, helping Leverkusen climb out of the relegation zone during the first half of the season. Thriving under the previous manager, Bosz must get the most out of his young star. Switching roles, Bosz will pull Havertz away from his usual number ten role and slot him into a three-man midfield. Sitting deeper, Havertz will be the key to Leverkusen’s success going forward.
This Leverkusen team is still young, but under their new manager, progress is being made. Maturing rapidly, a team once in the relegation zone is now climbing the table, playing with confidence and looking a threat on a weekly basis.