As the anticipation builds ahead of the new 2019/20 Bundesliga season, attention turns to the prospects of the 18 top flight German sides and what the coming campaign has in store. Here at the Bundesliga Fanatic we preview the new season by asking five questions of the major protagonists. Next up Bayer Leverkusen.
1. Can Peter Bosz avoid the dreaded ‘Second Season Syndrome’?
If you are unaware of ‘Second Season Syndrome’ you need look no further than Domenico Tedesco for an example. After finishing as surprise runners-up to Bayern in 2017/18, the Schalke trainer endured a torrid time last year and paid the price with his job.
It is fair to say that Peter Bosz went a long way to redeeming his own Bundesliga reputation after it took a bit of a hammering following his half a season at the Borussia Dortmund helm. After replacing Heiko Herrlich at the Bay Arena for the Rückrunde, he succeeded in steering Leverkusen to fourth place and Champions League qualification. The challenge now is to kick on, not fade away.
Julian Brandt has been sold to Dortmund, but the squad has been strengthened with the arrivals of Moussa Diaby, Kerem Demirbay and Nadiem Amiri. Bosz will want to progress with his Ajax-ification of Bayer, which he began so successfully last season.
In a recent interview with Deutsche Welle, Bosz explained his philosophy. “My approach is attacking football with a compact defense. With this playing style, I want to entertain the fans in the stadium.
“People should see a great game. When I go home, I should say: “Wow, that was exciting.” But we also need to win matches; that is most important.”
Fine principles, but then remember Domenico Tedesco had fine principles.
2. Is Kai Havertz going to propel himself to the next level and a big move away?
Is the Pope catholic?
On his current career trajectory, it isn’t hard to imagine Kai Havertz moving to Bayern Munich, Real Madrid or a similar ‘elite’ club at the end of this coming season. Julian Brandt has moved on to BVB and Leverkusen fans are going to have to brace themselves for Havertz to follow him out of the exit.
He only turned 20 in June and can look back on last season with huge pride. With 17 goals he set a Bundesliga scoring record for a teenager and team mate Jonathan Tah is one of many, who believe the midfielder is headed for the very top.
“In terms of his talent, there’s no limit,” the defender told the kicker meets DAZN podcast. “But as everybody knows, you don’t only need talent but also hard work and I think if he keeps working hard and doesn’t rest on his laurels, he can make it to the very top.”
The message to Leverkusen fans: Enjoy Kai Havertz while you still can.
3. Will the Werkself defence prove to be their Achilles heel?
Attacking and creative power is in no short supply at the Bay Arena, but just as in Peter Bosz’s brief spell in charge of Borussia Dortmund, the ability to keep it tight at the back may prove a stumbling block.
Leverkusen have been far from impressive defensively during pre-season against ‘smaller’ teams and fans will be hoping it is just a case of ironing out the creases. The added concern is that apart from Jonathan Tah, Bosz’s first-choice back four is stocked with midfield converts (the Bender twins, Daley Sinkgraven, Mitchell Weiser), which is fine for playing out from the back, but potentially more problematic when under attack.
“When we execute the proper playing style — play compact going forward and in defence — then we will concede very few shots on goal and therefore fewer goals” Bosz explains.
“The team proved in the second half of last season that that works. In contrast to the first half of the season, we not only scored 17 more goals but also conceded six fewer. But it’s true: If we do not implement our plan correctly, then there is a lot of space behind our defence that opponents like to use.”
Bosz was exposed defensively at Dortmund, will history repeat itself?
4. Will Leon Bailey rediscover his best form?
Leon Bailey himself has admitted that last season didn’t exactly go to plan after the fantastic year he enjoyed in his first full season at Leverkusen in 2017/18. In the season before last, the Jamaicans winger dazzled the Bundesliga with his nine goals and six assists and looked a prime candidate to be snapped up by Bayern as the heir to Robben and Ribéry.
However last season saw him struggle to replicate that form and he scored five goals while providing just two assists in 29 appearances.
“Last season I had ups and downs,” he told Leverkusen’s official website.”I had an injury towards the end, so it wasn’t my best season, but right now I’m really looking forward to the new season.
“I’m just trying to stay fit, stay positive and stay focussed. I’m looking forward with the mindset of being better than last season.”
Leon Bailey v.1: Superb. Leon Bailey v.2: Not great, not terrible. Leon Bailey v.3: Can’t wait to find out.
5. Can Kerem Demirbay adequately replace Julian Brandt?
It is probably unfair to expect him to despite his €32 million transfer fee surpassing that of the €25 million Borussia Dortmund paid to prise Brandt away from Leverkusen. Demirbay however is exactly the right type of player to fit into Peter Bosz’s attacking philosophy.
The signing from Hoffenheim is not shy of the hard work (which his average km covered per match show) and is ideally suited to quickly switching defence into attack with his passing vision and accuracy. He has had seven clubs so far, but it was under Julian Nagelsmann that he really prospered. The right coach bringing out his best? Peter Bosz will be hoping he can do the same.
Most Bundesliga opponents will be setting out first and foremost to find a way of neutralising Kai Havertz, which would allow Demirbay the opportunity to profit. He has proven down the years that he has the ability, he’s just now needs to prove he is the man to help lessen the blow of Brandt’s exit.
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