At the halfway stage in the 2021/22 Bundesliga season, Patrik Schick and Florian Wirtz have Gerardo Seoane's Bayer Leverkusen firmly in the mix for a top-four finish.
bundesliga.com puts the spotlight on B04's campaign so far...
The story so far
A season of superb highs and some disappointing lows has made coach Seoane's start to life at the helm of Leverkusen a fascinating one thus far. Die Werkself were rubbing shoulders with record champions Bayern Munich at the top of the Bundesliga after just seven matchdays, displaying an attacking brand of football that made the boys from North Rhine-Westphalia a team not to be missed. Spearheaded by striking sensation Schick, Leverkusen had electric young attacker Wirtz assisting for fun and Moussa Diaby menacing defences as they chalked up five wins and a draw early on. A heavy home defeat to Bayern in October rocked the B04 boat, however, allowing some inconsistency to seep in thereafter. They winter in the UEFA Champions League places, ahead of fifth-placed Hoffenheim on goal difference.
Watch: Leverkusen's perfect home start
Leverkusen finished the Hinrunde as the Bundesliga's third-highest scorers with an impressive 40 goals from 17 games. The Czech express, Schick, has weighed in with 16 (a Leverkusen Hinrunde record) of them, meaning the explosive striker ended the first half of the season sandwiched between heavyweights Robert Lewandowski and Erling Haaland in the chase for the 2021/22 Torjägerkanone
Watch: Patrik Schick under the tactical microscope
Best game so far
Die Werkself posted a warning to Greuther Fürth with a three-game winning run in all competitions prior to the teams' meeting on Matchday 13. However, even the promoted visitors to the BayArena on 4 December couldn't have expected the 7-1 drubbing meted out by Seoane's ruthless side. Wirtz, Diaby and Amine Adli ran amok but it was Schick, with four second-half goals, who made the headlines for a Bayer side that scored seven at home for the very first time.
Watch: Bayer in seventh heaven against Fürth
One to watch
Having had an already outstanding 2021/22 campaign to date, all eyes will be on just how much more improvement the mesmerising Wirtz can make come the season's conclusion. Not content with adding five goals to Leverkusen's top-flight challenge this term, the 18-year-old attacking midfielder is behind only Bundesliga legend Thomas Müller in the assist rankings. The 18-year-old - who recently became the youngest player to play 50 Bundesliga games - has laid on an impressive eight goals so far.
The view from inside the camp
"We have the quality to win a trophy. I think we’re on a good path, we have to keep going because there’s a lot of time left in the league season. We have to stay prepared and focused and stay by each other’s side; that’ll make us stronger as a group." - midfielder Exequiel Palacios
Borussia Dortmund (a) - Matchday 21
Eintracht Frankfurt (h) - Matchday 32
SC Freiburg (h) - Matchday 34
Despite sitting in a commendable fourth place, it's notable that Leverkusen picked up a total of just one point from their games against Bayern, Borussia Dortmund, Freiburg, Hoffenheim and Eintracht Frankfurt in the Hinrunde. A top-three finish would require a bigger return against those around them in the standings, with a trip to Dortmund providing Die Werkself a big test in February. B04 will also hope for significantly better home form after the restart, especially with tests against Frankfurt and Freiburg coming at key moments.