The Peter Bosz revolution is real at the BayArena; Bayer Leverkusen are revived and hunting a place in next season’s UEFA Champions League thanks largely to the new boss’ midfield pairing of enormously talented young schemers Kai Havertz and Julian Brandt.
Thirteen goals across four consecutive Bundesliga victories have left Leverkusen within touching distance of a top-four finish, a prospect that looked most unrealistic when Heiko Herrlich was replaced by Bosz at the turn of the year.
The former Borussia Dortmund chief has, however, got Bayer back in the groove thanks largely to a shuffle in the pack that has seen Brandt move inside from the wider position he has played for most of his career to date.
It is a move Bosz envisioned some time before he had taken his seat in the Leverkusen dugout.
“I’ve seen a lot of games involving Julian," said the 55-year-old after watching his side dismantle Mainz 5-1. "During my time with Dortmund when we played against Bayer... 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.”
Watch: The new Leverkusen under Bosz
A free rein to run riot
Bosz’s subtle change has seen the 22-year-old partner Havertz as interchanging eights and tens, with Charles Aranguiz providing a defensive platform at the base that allows Brandt and Havertz to run riot.
And run riot, they have.
Prior to Bosz’s arrival, Brandt - operating predominantly as a left winger but also featuring from the right - had one goal and three assists in 16 Bundesliga appearances this season. In the first five Matchdays of 2019, Brandt’s new central duties have allowed him contribute three goals and three assists to Die Werkself’s cause.
And the Germany international is clearly enjoying his new role: "When you play on the wing, you’re tied to the position and don’t have as much room. So now I can run around with freedom. I feel very comfortable in the position.”
Watch: A tactical analysis of the way Brandt and Havertz play
Goals, goals, and more goals
With Brandt and Havertz seeing more of the ball and allowed to roam up and down the pitch, the Leverkusen engine room has been sparked into life - even if Havertz was already on fire before Bosz turned the team around.
The 19-year-old supplied six goals and two assists in the league under Herrlich and it seemed the twice-capped Germany wunderkind was operating at his optimum. A further three goals in the first five league outings under Bosz suggest there is even more to come from this prodigious left-footer.
Leverkusen’s Bravertz bromance is - at the same time - a frightening prospect for their opposition and a mouthwatering one for Joachim Löw and the national team. Between them, the Bayer boys have had a hand in 21 of Leverkusen’s 39 league goals after 22 rounds of matches.
The numbers add up for those around them too, with Brandt’s adjustment allowing Leverkusen to flank Kevin Volland with both Karim Bellarabi and Leon Bailey. It changes the entire Werkself dynamic, adding extra pace on the wings and artful creativity from central positions. Unsurprisingly, releasing all five has added even more goals, with Leverkusen finding the net 13 times in the first five games of Bosz’s Rückrunde revolution.
Watch: Havertz's game analysed
Behind that front three, both Havertz and Brandt are comfortable on either foot, so-called Alleskönners with an almost complete set of attributes, capable of anything and everything in between. Both have a sixth-sense awareness of where the other is, while also boasting a sublime first touch, silky dribbling and ruthless eye for goal.
And it isn’t just going forward that the dynamic duo contribute.
Havertz also enjoys mucking in defensively and is among the top-20 players in the league for most tackles won, with 227 after 22 rounds of the season. It prompted his captain Lars Bender to say he had “never seen such a complete player” as Havertz, while Brandt was even more effusive in praising his fellow midfield mischief-maker:
"What he brings to the pitch in terms of play-making, technique and mentality is tremendous. He’s so talented he has the right stuff to become a world star.”
So does Brandt and - at this rate - both will go on to become world beaters side-by-side, hand-in-hand and brothers-in-arms for the red and black of Leverkusen and white of Die Mannschaft. There’s certainly something in the waters at Bayer, Bosz’s tactical sleight of hand sprinkling a little magic along the Eastern Bank of the Rhine.
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