Bayer Leverkusen have been one of the best teams in. After Bayern Munich they are the best home team in the league this season and can proudly say they are the only team to have beaten the league’s runaway leaders in what looks like a record-breaking season for the Bavarians. Leverkusen have a commanding six point lead over Schalke and Eintracht Frankfurt and are on course for automatic qualification for the Champions League group stages next season.
The likes of Stefan Kiessling, Andre Schürrle, Gonzalo Castro and Lars Bender have all been some of the league’s best performers and dual coaches Sami Hyypia and Sascha Lewandowski have instilled an exciting and effective system of play. One of Levekusen’s unsung heros in their run has been Stefan Reinartz, one of the team’s integral midfield-trio. The Bundesliga Fanatic talked with Stefan about the team’s season so far, what it’s like as a player having two coaches, their new system and style of play and lessons from their Europa League adventure.
Bundesliga Fanatic: Stefan, thank you for taking the time to talk to us. Despite losing to them this weekend, Leverkusen are the only side to have beaten Bayern Munich in the league this season and are still on course for a Champions League spot. What’s the secret to the team’s great form and consistency this season?
Stefan Reinartz: We have worked hard to earn our current position in the standings, through a structured game, great work rate and a few other key components. But we must not rest on our laurels here either. The season is now entering the decisive phase in which we have to mobilize everything possible to reach our goals.
BF: The team have taken really well to Sami Hyypia and Sascha Lewandowski’s attacking style. Is this quick counter attacking philosophy something you believe suits the players and the team best?
Reinartz: Our game does not just consist of counter attacking football. In the second half of the season especially we have have modified some aspects of our game to make us slightly less predictable.
BF: How important has the change in formation been to the team’s form and performances?
Reinartz: I think that our current playing style is suited very well to the players we have on our team. A system has to be able to be carried out on the field most importantly. If I didn’t have the team to carry that out, then even a good system like that could not function in the end.
BF: It isn’t common for a team to have dual coaches like Leverkusen do at the moment. What is it like working under such a setup from a player’s perspective?
Reinartz: I find it quite normal that coaches work together as a team. That was already the case at Leverkusen before Sami Hyypia and Sascha Lewandowski took over at the club. It is probably being perceived more exotic publicly than it really is but nowadays no coach is a lone wolf anymore.
BF: Last season you played at center-back at the beginning of the season and the year before that you spent most of the season in defense. Now you’re a mainstay in the team’s three-man midfield. Is this a position you think suits you best and prefer?
Reinartz: I think that describes my qualities as a footballer the best. My position gives me many possibilities and options on the field. And there is still a lot of room for me to develop and improve further as a player.
BF: The chemistry between the players is really great on the pitch and shows in the performances. Is this something that is equally good off the pitch?
Reinartz: Yes! Thanks for asking (laughs).
BF: Leverkusen’s run in Europe was cut short this year. Do you think there are any lessons to be learned for next year from the team’s games against Benfica?
Reinartz: That it is not always decisive to twice be the better team, and that from time to time it is also definitely important to score goals.
Bayer Leverkusen take on Fortuna Düsseldorf after the international break (Matchday 27, March 30).
Header courtesy of dpa, Marius Becker
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