Winter break: Bayer Leverkusen

6th Place

Grade: B-

Booooooooring! Booooooooring!

The Bayer company should offer free aspirin and alka-seltzer to everyone forced to watch this team…Usually you expect some good play from this squad, but this year’s edition really seems uninteresting.

Things started poorly in that GK Rene Adler was injured before the season started. Leverkusen had to scramble, but came up with a nice loaner from Stuttgart, 19 year old Bernd Leno. Leno has played very well, and speculation is that Leverkusen will excercise the option to buy. Of course, this is clouded by the fact that there is also speculation that Adler may not be the future of Bayer goal keeping. However, in any case, this seems a fairly solid position.

The defense has been stingy for the most part, but hasn’t really looked good. Gonzalo Castro is a German international, but has only barely been acceptable. I’d say he’s disappeared from Joggi Löw’s depth chart. Everyone else has pretty much stunk. I suppose oldie Manuel Friedrich has had a couple of decent games.

The midfield was supposed to be the strength. However, star midfielder Brazilian Renato Augusto went down with a knee injury. Captain Simon Rolfes hasn’t played up to standards, but youngster Lars Bender has been impressive as defensive midfielder. Of course, the main distraction is grandpa Michael Ballack, Germany’s superstar…of the previous decade. In again, out again, feuding with the national team (where he is certainly no longer needed). It’s really too bad, because it would be nice to see him go out with a nice swan song, but I suppose hanging out at Chelski for the last few years got rid of any humility he might have still had. He hasn’t been total crap, just sorta crap. Better than Rolfes or Sidney Sam.

The attack has largely been underwhelming, to be charitable…they’ve only managed 11 goals. Stefan Kiessling seems like he’s 40, but is actually only 27. He’s been the least crap, but only has scored 3 times. New German international André Schürrle was supposed to be the new superstar. He was great at Mainz, and has done decently in the national team. But so far he’s been a flop at Leverkusen. Swiss international Erden Derdiyok has scored 6 goals, but little else. I would call him a stealth striker, as he’s largely been invisible.

Last season Bayer did quite well, possibly because Jupp Heynckes was in charge and kicking their asses. I’m not really familiar with new boss Robin Dutt (he was successful at Freiburg), but whatever he’s doing ain’t really working. Seriously, Leverkusen should be a top 3-4 team every year, and at least threaten for the title (until they inevitably choke and live up to their “Luserkusen” or “Vize-kusen” moniker). They might do so yet, but certainly haven’t looked the part.


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