Bayer Leverkusen’s Julian Brandt and Kai Havertz are proving themselves unstoppable in the Bundesliga. With Robbery soon to be no more, will Bravertz be the dynamic duo to entertain us in the years to come?
Their fusion into one formidable unit that could eventually rival the riotously fruitful partnership of Franck Ribery and Arjen Robben at Bayern Munich has come about thanks to the style of play brought in by new coach Peter Bosz.
His introduction of a 4-3-3 formation has seen Brandt and Havertz flourish as number 8s on Bayer’s march up the Bundesliga table. The pair are on course for their most productive Bundesliga campaigns to date and they also look set to form vital cogs in the Germany national team for years going forward. But what exactly has changed for the pair?
Watch: A tactical analysis of Kai Havertz and Julian Brandt!
Havertz the goalscorer
The teenager is enjoying his most prolific season since scoring 18 times for the club’s U17s in 2015/16. He netted just three times in 30 Bundesliga appearances last term, but he’s already hit 10 in 25 games this season.
Despite not turning 20 until the summer, he’s already indispensable to the Bayer cause. He’s been called “one in a million” by the club’s sporting director Rudi Völler, “world class” by Bayern’s former treble-winning sporting director Matthias Sammer and “the biggest talent I’ve seen since Toni Kroos” by former Leverkusen boss Heiko Herrlich, so it’s little surprise that he’s started every league match in 2018/19 – the only Werkself player to do so.
A natural attacking midfielder, Havertz is seen as the more attacking of Bravertz. He makes the runs forward through the space vacated by Brandt, who is more of a horizontal mover on the pitch. The new 4-3-3 formation affords him the freedom of the gaps in behind the central striker with both wingers remaining wide.
Watch: Kai Havertz's key role for Leverkusen!
While the eyes of the central defenders are likely on the centre forward and the ball in front of them, Havertz is able to drift freely and even interchange with the striker. And it isn’t simply his positional play that makes the 19-year-old such a threat to opposition defences. He’s the third-fastest player in the league this season, so even if the defender has spotted his movement, it’s very difficult to keep up with him.
Brandt’s move into the centre
The former Wolfsburg youth product has been on the scene a little longer than his partner-in-crime. The 22-year-old has made a name for himself out on the wing, already winning 23 senior Germany caps, winning the FIFA Confederations Cup in 2017 and featuring in all three matches at the 2018 FIFA World Cup.
Bosz, however, had a different idea for Brandt. “I’ve seen a lot of games involving Julian,” explained the 55-year-old. “During my time with Dortmund when we played against Bayer, in Leverkusen. Back then he was playing on the wing, but I saw him as a midfielder.”
Watch: Brandt takes Mainz apart
Now under Bosz’s tutelage, that is what Brandt has become. The Bremen native has started every match under the Dutchman as one of the central midfield three and had an immediate effect. Three of his four goals this season have come since the move, as have six of his nine Bundesliga assists in 2018/19.
It’s a change that Brandt himself has seen in a positive light. “I’ve got a more direct movement towards goal from the centre. You don’t have to come inside to get into the game, you’re already in the middle of it all,” the midfielder stated after perhaps his best performance in a Leverkusen shirt when he bagged a brace and provided two assists in a 5-1 win at Mainz on Matchday 21.
Bravertz is born
Scoring goals and laying on assists for each other and those around them, could we even soon see Bravertz in action for Germany? Having already taken 22-year-old Brandt to two major tournaments and previously described 19-year-old Havertz as “one of the most talented players we have”, Joachim Löw will not have missed their progression at the centre of Bayer’s European push.