|Head Coach||Peter Bosz|
|2019/20 Bundesliga finish||5th (UEFA Europa League Group Stage qualification)|
Bayer Leverkusen finished fifth in the Bundesliga last season, two points behind Borussia Mönchengladbach. Peter Bosz’s side were knocked out of the UEFA Europa League quarter-finals by Inter Milan and went down 4-2 to Bayern Munich in the DFB-Pokal final.
With no silverware and failing to finish in the top four, it was ultimately a disappointing season after CEO Fernando Carro told Forbes that “we want to qualify for the UEFA Champions League every season, it is as simple as that.”
The Werkself started the season without Julian Brandt who joined Borussia Dortmund for €25m, those funds going towards a €32 move for Kerem Demirbay. Daley Sinkgraven, Nadiem Amiri and Moussa Diaby also arrived in July with Edmond Tapsoba and Exequiel Palacios making the move in January.
Brandt’s departure left nobody in any doubt that Kai Havertz was the main man in Leverkusen. The superstar started slow but, like the team, found his form in 2020, finishing with 18 goals and 9 assists in all competitions.
Bayer 04’s main problem was inconsistency. They went on a great run in February, winning 11 of 12 matches in all competitions including victories against Borussia Dortmund (4-3), Porto (2-1, 3-1), Eintracht Frankfurt (4-0), Rangers (3-1), Werder Bremen (4-1) and Borussia Mönchengladbach (3-1).
A 1-1 draw at Schalke and 2-0 defeat at Hertha Berlin in their final four Bundesliga matches ended Leverkusen’s Champions League ambitions.
Likely Starting XI
Charles Aránguiz – Central Midfield
Charles Aránguiz is Bayer Leverkusen’s captain and one of their most experienced players. He plays a vital role in central midfield, able to play a holding role and adept at performing a box to box role to provide goals and assists.
Bosz has useful options in central midfield, namely Kerem Demirbay and Exequiel Palacios, but it is Aránguiz who will be missed most when he is not on the pitch. It was no surprise that Aránguiz was linked with Bayern Munich in April, his decision to sign a new contract until 2023 in May great news for the club. CEO Rudi Völler said at the time that “Charles is a really important player for our team.”
Sporting director Simon Rolfes was also full of praise for the Chilean, saying: “Charles can read a game, accelerate at the right moment, he radiates an incredible calm and gives his teammates support and security. Extending his contract for another three years is a good sign for a successful future on the pitch and also a signal to the rest of the team.”
Signing to watch
Patrik Schick – Striker
With Kai Havertz and Kevin Volland departing the club, Bayer Leverkusen’s only major acquisition thus far has been former Sparta Prague, Sampdoria, Roma and RB Leipzig striker Patrik Schick.
The 24-year-old Czech international had a tough time in Rome after a breakout season at Sampdoria. Schick spent last season on loan at Leipzig, showing he can score in the Bundesliga with 10 goals in 1304 minutes of action. He was unable to score in the UEFA Champions League.
Schick came off the bench to score Bayer Leverkusen’s final goal in the 7-0 thrashing of Eintracht Norderstedt in the DFB-Pokal first round. He will alternate with Lucas Alario for the striker position and be aiming to become first choice in important matches.
Speed out wide
Bayer Leverkusen have speed to burn with Moussa Diaby, Leon Bailey, Karim Bellarabi and Florian Wirtz all options to play on the wing. Despite losing Kai Havertz and Kevin Volland, they have largely kept the squad intact. Expect to see improvement from youngsters Edmond Tapsoba, Exequiel Palacios, Moussa Diaby and Florian Wirtz.
Inconsistency and replacing Havertz
Bayer Leverkusen’s main problem in recent seasons has been consistent and heavy defeats against top four clubs. In the 2018/19 Bundesliga season the Werkself went 2-8 against top six clubs. They improved in that respect last season, but still could not close the deal and seal a top four finish. Replacing the production provided by Kai Havertz and Kevin Volland is going to be their biggest challenge this season. Schick is a start and Wirtz is a promising talent with plenty of upside, but Havertz and Volland offered a lot more than goals and assists. Bayer Leverkusen still have time to add to their squad, but their best hope remains fourth spot and finally getting their hands on a Cup trophy.