- Volland's understanding with Chicharito already showing promise.
- Champions League aspirants had third-meanest defence in 15/16.
- Schmidt's versatile squad boasts youthful strength in depth.
There is a buzz of excitement around the BayArena ahead of the 2016/17 Bundesliga campaign, and for good reason. Roger Schmidt's men concluded least season with eight wins in their final nine games to finish third. Die Werkself have bought wisely this summer, but how might Schmidt tinker with an already-successful formula?
Leverkusen were one of the few teams to employ a 4-4-2 formation last term, with Javier 'Chicharito' Hernandez thriving alongside strike partner Stefan Kießling to plunder 17 goals in his maiden Bundesliga campaign. When Kießling was injured in March, the formation was tweaked and Julian Brandt went on to become just the second teenager in Bundesliga history to score in six consecutive games. A third-best defensive record in the division, meanwhile, helped goalkeeper Bernd Leno and centre-back Jonathan Tah join Brandt in earning their first Germany caps.
FIFA World Cup winner Christoph Kramer may have returned to Borussia Mönchengladbach, but with club captain Lars Bender and Copa America Centenario champion Charles Aranguiz returning from injury, Bayer are well stocked in the midfield engine room, and that's before accounting for the arrival of former 1.FSV Mainz captain Julian Baumgartlinger. Further forward, Kevin Volland has taken little time to click into gear since signing from TSG 1899 Hoffenheim, contributing five pre-season goals and an assist for Chicharito in the recent 1-1 friendly draw with FC Porto.
Watch: All 17 of Javier 'Chicharito' Hernandez's goals from 2015/16:
Bayer shifted to a 4-2-3-1 for most of last season's Rückrunde, during which time they climbed from eighth to finish in the third and final automatic UEFA Champions League qualification place. It is fair to expect Schmidt to continue in the same vein, especially with Volland's natural left-footedness allowing Turkey playmaker Hakan Calhanoglu to line up in his favoured No10 position. Former Germany U-21 right-back Danny da Costa has returned after a four-year sojourn at FC Ingolstadt 04, meanwhile, and could be set to feature at Tin Jedvaj's expense.
Such an embarrassment of riches might see Brandt and Baumgartlinger amongst the substitutes more often than they would like, but with a three-pronged assault on the Bundesliga, DFB Cup and Champions League ahead, B04 will have to call upon the whole squad over the course of 2016/17, and that kind of strength in depth is likely to be the envy of all but FC Bayern München and Borussia Dortmund, and perhaps even last season's top two to boot.
Watch: the architectural gem that is Bayer 04 Leverkusen's BayArena: