Opinion | Bochum’s Kevin Stöger is better than any Bayern Munich or Bayer Leverkusen midfielder

Bayern Munich and Bayer Leverkusen look to be enjoying quite the title race this season, as just four points currently separate the two standout teams in the Bundesliga. With the two teams boasting talent in the midfield department such as Joshua Kimmich, Leon Goretzka, Granit Xhaka, and Exequiel Palacios, it is little wonder why they are flying high.

However, a glance down the table will reveal a certain VfL Bochum occupying 14th in the league, currently embroiled in a battle of their own. Nevertheless, the race they will partake in this season will be the race to stay in Germany’s top flight.

As their fate took a bump in the road on Friday evening with a defeat away at Hoffenheim, there could be reason to fear the worst this campaign. Nonetheless, there is a jewel in the Bochum side that those around them cannot boast about having.

In Kevin Stöger, Bochum have one of the best midfielders in the Bundesliga.

But what makes the Austrian so good?

Since arriving from Mainz in the summer of 2022, Stöger has been pivotal in ensuring Bochum’s future in the Bundesliga. His creativity, genius, and influence saw Die Blauen avoid relegation last season, and they look on course to do so this year too.

However, when comparing Stöger to not just any midfielder in the league but those previously mentioned above, it is easy to understand why he has such an effect on this side. So far this season, the 30-year-old has more goals and assists than Kimmich, Goretzka, Xhaka, and Palacios, as well as achieving a higher expected AG, as per FBref.

Only Goretzka can boast a better non-penalty xG than the Bochum playmaker, while his progression on the ball would make Xabi Alonso blush. The Spaniard has turned Bayer Leverkusen’s midfield into the best in the Bundesliga since taking charge, and as previously reported, the signing of Xhaka only improved Die Werkself’s output.

However, has Alonso missed a signing in Stöger? The Austrian has seven more progressive carries than Xhaka, while the Swiss international is the only player out of the four mentioned that completes more progressive passes.

A slight downfall to Stöger’s game would be his pass accuracy, but considering he is the key creative clog in Bochum’s side, he finds the ball in the midfield third under pressure at a significantly high rate. Nevertheless, while he is producing such impressive progressive numbers, his defensive work should also be appreciated.

Only Palacios has completed more tackles and interceptions than Stöger, and with the Argentinian also the only player with more tackles in the defensive third than the Bochum midfielder, his defensive work rate can clearly be seen.

Being able to produce numbers like this on the ball for a Bochum side that have the fourth-lowest average possession in the league is staggering. To imagine what he could produce in a side like Leverkusen would be interesting to see.

However, for now, he is Bochum’s shining light in the midfield. A remarkable box-to-box midfielder who can do it all, and while he may not necessarily be the best in the Bundesliga, it is about time that Kevin Stöger received the praise he truly deserves.

GGFN | Will Shopland

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