Julian Brandt has taken a huge step in his footballing career after a switch in position under new Bayer Leverkusen coach Peter Bosz. The results have been frightening.
After a first-half of the 2018/19 campaign which failed to meet expectations, a run of six Bundesliga wins in eight games has propelled Leverkusen back into top-six contention.
However, upon being asked who could stop Bayer in current form, Brandt’s response of “Heidenheim” was reflective of both the jovial mood at the club and the level-headed nature of one of their leading men.
Peter Bosz has reinvigorated a frontline blessed with youthful exuberance and jaw-dropping quality, but the change has been most notable in the 24-time Germany international who was even rewarded with the Bundesliga's February Player of the Month award, after two goals and four assists in four games.
Watch: Julian Brandt, one of the Bundesliga's best
Before the winter break, Brandt chipped in with just one goal and three assists. Since the turn of the year though, the Bremen-native has been involved in 10 goals in nine games.
Marking his 200th appearances in all competitions for Die Werkself against Mainz on Matchday 21, Brandt ran the show, bagging two goals and two assists on a memorable night, but remained realistic in his appraisal of the upturn in form.
“The bottom line is that things can go in different directions very quickly,” the 22-year-old told Sportschau. “We’ve played very, very well in three games straight. We’ve left a good impression after an inexplicable first half of the season. But things can go up as fast as they come down.”
“We’re going to come up against opponents where the game will be a lot tighter and when we’re not quite as on our game. Right now we’re in a really good mood and we’re hoping that we can maintain that. We’re going to continue to try and be as consistent as possible, but there’s no guarantee of that.”
Watch: Brandt scores two and assists two vs. Mainz!
Leverkusen, who have now suffered one more defeat in the current campaign as they did in the entirety of 2017/18, don’t need reminding that there are no guarantees. The early signs though, are that Bosz has tapped into a well of talent that predecessor Heiko Herrlich only skimmed the surface of.
“Of course it’s a different style of play, but we’re finding our groove as a collective,” continued Brandt. “At the moment, things are going really well with Bosz’s style of play. Everyone’s got their own recipe for success.”
Part of Bosz’s new modus operandi involves a change in role for Brandt, who is now being deployed alongside fellow starlet Kai Havertz in the heart of midfield. It’s hard to argue against Bosz’s brainchild based on the results so far.
“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.”
He’s such a good player and you’ve got to give good players the ball as much as possible. Today he was really exceptional. He barely lost the ball, he was choosing the right moments to complete the triangles. He’s a great player.”
Brandt succinct summation of “things are clicking for us and I don’t think our opponents are enjoying it” was spot on, but high-flying Leverkusen are keeping their feet firmly planted despite holding an outside hope of clinching a top-four finish.
Defeats against Borussia Dortmund and Werder Bremen have followed before the international break, but Brandt's two assists in a vital 3-2 away win against Hannover proved his importance to the team once again.
Watch: Brandt's two assists vs. Hannover!
"I played this position in the youth teams so it’s not completely new," Brandt told bundesliga.com on his switch to central midfield.
"You can’t really compare youth football to first team football, but I knew what to expect. I still had to adjust because when you play out wide, you have to stick to the line and you often don’t have as much space as you’d like. You can’t afford to make as many mistakes in the middle, but it is still a lot of fun in this position."
With Leverkusen now back in the fight for European football, vital games against Hoffenheim, RB Leipzig and Eintracht Frankfurt before the end of the season could be the biggest chance for Bosz and his side to prove they are worthy of a spot among the elite. And Brandt will be key to any chance Leverkusen have of reaching it.
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