Bayer Leverkusen roared to life after a tough start to the 2018-19 season, and just snuck into the final Champions League spot after an unbeaten run. With former Dortmund manager Peter Bosz at the helm and a number of wise signings, how will Die Werkself do with greater expectations?
Bundesliga: 4th – 58 pts. (18W-4D-12L)
DFB-Pokal: Round of 16 – defeated 1:2 vs. 1. FC Heidenheim
Europa League: Round of 32 – defeated 1:1 on away goals vs. Krasnodar
Bayer 04 Leverkusen started off the year in terrible shape before firing Heiko Herrlich and hiring former Dortmund manager Peter Bosz. The move sparked a resurgence of Die Werkself and the squad ended the year on a six-match unbeaten run to push themselves into the final Champions League spot.
Just missing out on Champions League on the final day of the 2017-18 season (lol), they had to settle for Europa League, where they finished first in their group and unfortunately lost out to Krasnodar on away goals.
· Kerem Demirbay (CM) – TSG Hoffenheim – 28.8m
· Moussa Diaby (LW) – Paris Saint-Germain – 13.5m
· Nadiem Amiri (AM) – TSG Hoffenheim – 8.1m
· Daley Sinkgraven (LB) – Ajax – 4.5m
· Julian Brandt (LW) – Borussia Dortmund – 22.5m
· Dominik Kohr (CM) – Eintracht Frankfurt – 7.65m
· Thorsten Kirschbaum (GK) – VVV-Venlo – Free Transfer
The biggest addition to the squad for 2019-20 will be Kerem Demirbay. . Don’t overlook the additions of Moussa Diaby (4g, 7a) or Nadiem Amiri (3g, 3a) to their already solid attacking arsenal. Daley Sinkgraven should provide a solid rotational piece at the left-back position.
Unfortunately for Leverkusen, they lost their best playmaker in Julian Brandt for nowhere near what he is really worth. Can guys like Amiri and Sinkgraven make up for 41 career goals and 51 assists he put up in the black and red? Will his departure have a negative effect on the rest of the team, or will it spur them on to up their own play to make up for his loss? They’d better hope Demirbay can fill that void for them.
What to expect in 2019/20
After taking over in January, Bosz’s Leverkusen were completely transformed. They improved from Herrlich in nearly every statistical category, especially goals scored per game, goals conceded per game, and points earned per game. They managed to do all of this while playing a free-flowing, possession-based attack led by Brandt, Kai Havertz, Leon Bailey, and Kevin Volland, plus a Lucas Alario and Karim Bellarabi. They scored a total of 43 Bundesliga goals under Bosz compared to just 21 under Herrlich, an insane difference. Add in that they didn’t bring in anyone on the offensive side of the ball in either transfer window aside from Paulinho (did scored nor created any goals for B04), and it makes the turnaround that much more impressive.
Defensively, their backline of Jonathan Tah, Sven Bender, Wendell and Mitchell Weiser, with Lukas Hradecky in net, conceded only 24 goals since Bosz took over against the 29 under Herrlich. While it looks like not much of a difference, their second half improvement was more than enough for them to sneak into the fourth Champions League spot.
Even with the loss of Brandt, I don’t really see them diverting away from their attacking formations with the talent they still have at their disposal.
Prediction: Top 4
Will this finally be the year Leverkusen sheds their Neverkusen nickname? More than likely not, but that doesn’t mean they can’t finish top four and push the rest of the teams at the top.
Other than Dortmund, Bayern, and Leipzig, there’s no other team in the Bundesliga that has the kind of talent on one side of the ball that Leverkusen has. On paper, they are scary good.
If they can hang on to their other playmakers like Havertz and Volland, and maybe bring in some more reinforcements in the winter, this team could seriously latch onto a spot in the top four and potentially push for more. With the amount of firepower they have on the offensive side of the ball, the only way they fail to finish among the top four is if they have an injury crisis and fail to adapt, or if they fail to make up for the loss of Brandt.