Category Archives: Adler

Bernd Leno is here to stay…is Bayer?

When Bild, kicker magazine, and Bayer Leverkusen’s own website announced that 19-year old goal keeping phenom, Bernd Leno, had signed a five-and-a-half year contract to continue wearing the Bayer cross on his jersey, Leverkusen fans couldn’t be blamed for greeting the news with sudden cheer and then immediate sadness. Elation at signing one of the foremost young talents in the Bundesliga, and depression at the reality that we’ve probably seen the last of a Leverkusen goal-keeping legend, who has been with the club since 2000 as a youth. Rene Adler is working his way back to fitness after a patella injury (knee), and although his physical therapy is progressing, it also seems to be taking longer than most originally anticipated. In fact, in the last several days he has had to scale back his rehab schedule, suggesting that he won’t be back in early January as planned.

At the beginning of the season, Adler’s injury, and a lack of faith in in-house options David Yelldell and Fabian Giefer, was enough of a concern for Leverkusen brass, Rudi Völler and Wolfgang Holzhäuser, to make them look for a suitable replacement outside of the team. Enter 19 year old Bernd Leno, who was plying his trade as the back-up (and heir-apparent) goalkeeper at VfB Stuttgart. When he came to Leverkusen after the second game of the season it was to be on a half-season loan basis only, but that was before Leno kept three straight clean sheets in his first games and acquitted himself as a Champion’s League-quality keeper. By early October, it had become clear that it would be in Leverkusen’s (and Leno’s) best interest to retain him, and efforts were begun to ensure that he would stay at the BayArena after the initial loan period. Indeed, Leno offered his analysis of the situation by indicating that he wanted to be in Leverkusen and that it would be truly “bitter” for him if he couldn’t advance with the rest of the team into next year’s knock-out stage in the Champion’s League tournament.

Depending on reports, Leverkusen paid Stuttgart somewhere between 7 and 8 million Euros for Bernd Leno’s services – a fee that caused many Leverkusen jaws to drop. It is, as the glass half-empty pessimist will tell you, one of the most expensive goal keeper transfers ever within the league (only Manuel Neuer’s move to Bayern cost more – much more), but, as the glass half-full optimist will tell you, it’s less than what Stuttgart were asking for initially. Early on in the negotiations, Bayer had offered 6 million Euros to keep the young goalie, but Stuttgart came back with a stupefying demand of 10 million. After both sides quieted down somewhat they met again, and the final cost of the sale indicates that both sides made concessions and found a compromise all parties could live with. As Stuttgart’s own Fredi Bobic stated, “In the end, it was a business decision, which all interested parties could easily live with.”

Well, one interested party, Rene Adler, is probably not thrilled about this development, but he probably shouldn’t be the focus of this new deal. Adler, if he returns to 100% fitness, should have no problem finding another club to retain his services. Whether that’s in Germany or abroad is, at this time, inconsequential – if he’s willing to lower his asking price, he will play again, and at a high level. Rather, my focus is on the team that Leverkusen is (not so) slowly assembling, seemingly piece by piece. The second most important jewel of last summer’s transfer window was, of course, Andre Schuerrle, for whom Bayer paid almost the same amount of money as the it did for Leno. This coming summer, the club has already lined up CB Philip Wollscheid from FC Nuernberg for 5 million Euro, giving Leverkusen a potentially formidable, and more importantly young, interior back two with Omer Toprak.

The 13 million Euro that Leverkusen have spent for Leno and Wollscheid would appear to be a bargain for two of the most talented young players at their positions. We certainly know now where some of that 20 million Euro from the Champion’s League will be going, and we can only hope that it won’t be needed to pay penalties for the Tel Da Fax fiasco. But, more importantly, both are locked into contracts until 2017, which continues Leverkusen’s practice of handing out five year contracts to its younger players (sorry, Micha). Additionally, players like Schuerrle and Toprak are signed through 2016, and you have to believe that Leverkusen will do everything in their power to re-sign Lars Bender at the end of his term in 2014, while highly talented young players like Danny Da Costa and Karim Bellarabi will be asked to contribute more in the next years.

Now, any number of unanswered questions still stare Leverkusen in the face, especially what will happen with some of the current squad who are injured. Players like Renato Augusto, Hanno Balitsch, and Tranquilo Barnetta were expected to provide important leadership and/or reliable support, but the success of the team (especially in the Champion’s League) without these players suggests that they might not be as integral as previously thought. Older players like Simon Rolfes, Manuel Friedrich, and Michael Ballack will be handled on an individual basis, but one feels as if perhaps we should begin our good-byes soon.

Finally, to my point; as a glass half-full optimist, it feels as if the right foundations are being laid for…wait for it…a title by 2014/2015! Yes, it’s a pie in the sky dream that every Leverkusen fan has every couple of years, but it seems as if the stars are really starting to align again, and the current crop of young players being brought in suggests that Voeller and Holzhaeuser are intent on building a team to challenge the Bayerns and Dortmunds of the Bundesliga for the foreseeable future. And at the back of it all, standing confidently and non-plussed, will be a young man with the same initials as the team for which he plays. Bernd Leno, Bayer Leverkusen…it feels like the beginning of a beautiful friendship.

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Game Report: Bundesliga, Fixture 8, Bayer Leverkusen vs VfL Wolfsburg 3:1

Bayer Leverkusen got back to winning ways in the Bundesliga with a 3-1 win over Wolfsburg.

The win takes them into a pack of teams chasing the top three and leaves the Wolves struggling on the back of their fifth defeat of the season.

Gonzalo Castro gave Leverkusen the lead in the 14th minute, but Mario Mandzukic levelled for the visitors on the hour mark.

Eren Derdiyok restored the home team’s advantage five minutes later and Stefan Kiessling rounded off the win five minutes from time.

The three points will be particularly welcome for Leverkusen coach Robin Dutt, who had moved into the firing line after heavy defeats to Cologne and Bayern Munich in their last two league matches.

Leverkusen could have gone ahead in the 13th minute when Kiessling met Sidney Sam’s cross with his head from point-blank range, but Diego Benaglio somehow managed to keep the ball out.

There was nothing Wolfsburg’s Swiss goalkeeper could do a minute later, though, as Castro took the ball round him and scored from a tight angle after Derdiyok and Kiessling crafted the opening.

Fresh from his goal in the Champions League in midweek, Michael Ballack almost got his name on the scoresheet again, but his shot hit the post in the 38th minute.

Benaglio then denied the former Germany captain with a fine save just before the interval.

Leverkusen were punished for not adding to their early goal when the Wolves drew level in the 52nd minute. Marcel Schafer crossed to the far post from the goal line and Mandzukic leapt to head in from close range.

Their joy at equalising was short-lived, however, with the lively Derdiyok restoring Leverkusen’s lead in spectacular fashion in the 65th minute.

He met Hanno Balitsch’s cross with an acrobatic overhead kick that left Benaglio no chance.

Kiessling then ended Wolfsburg’s faint hopes of finding an equaliser, keeping his cool to beat Benaglio in a one-on-one situation after being put through by Simon Rolfes.

Source: Espnstar.com

Short comment by Patrick1904:

A convincing team effort yesterday by the Werkself, it seems like that the focus on communication this week between players and coach has paid off. The rare public criticism of Bayer 04’s management towards a player/team performance, in this case Wolfgang Holzhäuser vs Renato Augusto: “His performances have been poor lately, we expect more of him”, have clearly shaken things around if you look at the first goal celebration and Castro’s defense after the game: “He is a sensitive player, the celebration was planned beforehand”.

Together with the first time use this season of a 4-4-2 and some needed modifications to the line-up itself (Rolfes and Renato deserved a place on the bench), the Werkself celebrated an offensive festival at the BayArena. It was fun to watch and for me the second best performance this season next to the game against Dortmund.

However Wolfsburg with it’s usual crazy summer transfer activities is at this moment of the season, not a real test of strength. The same goes for Genk last Wednesday.

The next games against Mönchengladbach, Valencia and Schalke will surely allow us to judge better.

Line-up: Leverkusen (bottom) vs Wolfsburg (top)

Substitutions Leverkusen
67 min. Rolfes for L. Bender
72 min. Schwaab for Derdiyok
88 min. M. Friedrich for Ballack

Substitutions Wolfsburg
46 min. Hasebe for Jönsson
46 min. Helmes for Lakic
69 min. Koo for Josué

Yellow Cards: Derdiyok (Leverkusen); Josué and Russ (both Wolfsburg)

Goals:
1:0 Castro (14 min.)
1:1 Mandzukic (59 min.)
2:1 Derdiyok (65 min.)
3:1 Kießling (85 min.)

Statistics Leverkusen vs Wolfsburg
Posession: 52 % vs 48 %
Shots: 19 vs 8
Fouls: 16 vs 22
Corners: 6 vs 4
Offsides: 5 vs 4
Distance covered (km): 118 vs 111

Videos uploaded by third party with no link to Mundilev.tk. We assume no responsibility for it!

or here>> Rutube.ru

Leno has replaced Adler not only in the line-up

Stupid rule: Derdiyok receives yellow for taking his shirt off celebrating the bicycle kick goal

Cheer up Reinartz! You played some unusual good long balls

More photos @ 1904-online.de

Loved Gonzalo Castro in midfield, that’s where he really belongs in my opinion. Ballack has clearly an upwards trend, the big question is: When will he play an entire match? And score his first Bundesliga goal since the transfer back to Bayer 04? Will it happen before the winter-break?

Why is Derdiyok focused more on quality than quantity of goals? Goals against Bremen/Schalke in low-scoring 2010/11 for example.

Game Report: Bundesliga, Fixture 6, Bayer Leverkusen vs 1.FC Cologne 1:4

by Patrick1904

A pair of second-half goals from Lukas Podolski helped Cologne claim a 4-1 win at Bayer Leverkusen on Saturday, putting an end to Leverkusen’s four-game unbeaten streak.

The opening goal arrived shortly before halftime when Podolski helped start a move that resulted in Milivoje Novakovic tapping the ball into the net from close range. Podolski then found the back of the net himself with some help from Novakovic, whose pass left the Germany international with a close-range finish.

The lead was stretched to 3-0 when Podolski dashed past a defender and fired his shot into the corner goal before Mato Jajalo headed the ball against the crossbar for Cologne.

Simon Rolfes found the net for the home side 20 minutes from time, but Andre Schurrle was sent off in the 90th minute for Leverkusen and Jajalo added a fourth goal shortly before the final whistle.

Source: Xinhuanet.com

I think Rudi Völler found the correct words to describe what happened yesterday:

“A lot of players did not comprehend, the importance of this Derby against Cologne. You can lose, but not in the way we played today. The team did not put any will power against them. Of course it was energy consuming to play against Chelsea during the week, but that’s why the coach introduced some changes in the line-up. Anyone who felt tired had the opportunity to let him know, hardly nobody did. We saw a bloodless performance, a step back into our worst times.”

On Schürrle’s red card: “Lukas Podolski committed a harsh foul without any motive against Schürrle in the first half. Not even a yellow did he receive. I thought it was worth a red card. I could therefore not understand the red against Schürrle near the end, it came out of nowhere.”

One of the reason why the Werkself had difficulties overcoming Cologne well organised defense was the slow ball movement and transition, it often took ages to get to their area.  A lot of balls were also played through the heavily crowded middle.  Simon Rolfes did explain the game plan at the conclusion of the match:

“Because of our Champions League match during the the week, we wanted to gain some control first and secure our back-lines. It was unfortunate to go behind a few minutes before half-time and then receive another goal so early in the second half. From then on it was very difficult because Cologne ran good counter-attacks.”

The team is already tired at this point of the season? Or how do I have to understand this game plan in front of our home crowd against a team that fights against relegation every year? Add to this, the big statements of coach and players before the Derby and you have prepared a cocktail of fan anger.

I could start talking again extensively about the defensive imbalance in our squad, but we all heard that more than enough and agree on it. Wolfgang Holzhäuser however has a different opinion, here an extract of his column in the stadium magazine for the Cologne match:

“It was not an easy start into the season for us, during the first five fixture we had to play against strong sides. After initial difficulties, the team has come together and is now presenting itself like a unit. Especially the often criticised and young defense stepped up. Robin Dutt did a good job in this area. The voices that demanded big signings have ceased to speak out. Anyways there is no guarantee that it would have helped us to perform better. Our trust in the squad has payed off well.”

Line-up: Bayer 04 vs Cologne

Substitutions Leverkusen
52 min. Kießling for Derdiyok
52 min. Sam for Ballack
80 min. Bellarabi for Schwaab

Substitutions Cologne
64 min. Lanig for Chihi
69 min. Eichner for Jemal
77 min. Clemens for Peszko

Red card: Schürrle (Leverkusen, 90 + 1 min.)

Yellow cards: Balitsch (Leverkusen); Peszko,Clemens,Rensing,Riether (all Cologne)

Goals:
0:1 Novakovic (44 min.)
0:2 Podolski (47 min.)
0:3 Podolski (54 min.)
1:3 Rolfes (70 min.)
1:4 Jajalo (90 min.)

Statistics Leverkusen vs Cologne
Posession: 63 % vs 37 %
Shots: 15 vs 9
Fouls: 16 vs 18
Corners: 5 vs 0
Offsides: 6 vs 1
Distance covered (km): 115 vs 118

Videos uploaded by third party with no link to Mundilev.tk. We assume no responsibility for it!

or here>> Rutube.ru

Pyrotechnics as usual in the Cologne stands

No signs of Goatbusters yesterday on the pitch

Bayer 04 players knocked out

Heated discussion took place after the match between some players and front-line fans. Sidney Sam unfortunately had to hear some racial remarks from a supposed Bayer 04 fan

More pictures @ 1904-online.de

_____________

Dutt said to a local newspaper this weekend: “I expect that Rene won’t play a single game before the winter break.”

Big surprise! He was supposed to be back in mid October. His recovery will take longer as initially communicated by the club (3-4 months). Bild newspaper was right with their 6 months prediction.

Looking forward to your comments!

Friendly: Bayer Leverkusen vs Glasgow Rangers 2:0

Leverkusen won 2:0 against the Glasgow Rangers in Telgte, the goals were scored by Barnetta and Ballack.

Hanno Balitsch started as captain, while Michael Ballack took the lead in the 2nd half.  It was a surprise that the reelected Rolfes did not receive the armband when he came in with one hour played.

Barnetta and Schürrle produced a lot of opportunities on the wings for the Werkelf.  The new goalkeeper Yelldell did show some minor insecurities over his 90 minutes spin.  It will be interesting to see how Dutt reacts to Adler’s injury.  I would let Yelldell play the German Cup games and Giefer both Bundesliga and Champions League.  The young german goalkeeper is talented and needs every chance to grow.

Schwaab missed yesterday’s friendly, as he still is suffering from some minor muscular inconveniences that arose in the training camp in Austria.  Why Bastian Oczipka was not called up is not known.

Robin Dutt after the game

“This was probably our best game in this pre-season and better than against Salzburg as the opponent was much stronger today. The only negative aspect was that we should have made more out of our chances. But I am very satisfied, especially about our ball recovery, management of possessions and superiority in the air. It was also positive that despite many substitutions, we kept our organization.”

—————–Yelldell—————-
Balitsch–Reinartz–Toprak–Kadlec-
———–Bender—-Castro———–
Barnetta——-Renato—–Schürrle–
—————-Derdiyok—————

Substitutions
Ballack for Balitsch (46 min.)
Sam for Schürrle (46 min.)
Kießling for Derdiyok (46 min.)
Rolfes for Renato (61 min.)
M.Friedrich for Reinartz (66 min.)
Da Costa for Bender (76 min.)
Jørgensen for Castro (76 min.)

Goals:
1:0 Barnetta (13 min.)
2:0 Ballack (78 min. penalty)

Video Highlights: Bayer04.de

Champions League Flair in Telgte, population: 19.000

Takko Stadium in Telgte

David Yelldell

Capitano Ballack

More photos @ 1904-online.de

_______________________

Results of election for captaincy 2011/12:

1st Captain: Simon Rolfes
2nd Captain: René Adler
Player’s council: The above mentioned + Michael Ballack,Manuel Friedrich and Hanno Balitsch

Review of individual performances and new transfers

Club boss Wolfgang Holzhäuser said this week in an interview on Bayer04-TV that the first stage of the squad planning for the next season has finalized. Additional transfers could happen if injuries occur or the new coach Robin Dutt sees in the preseason a need to improve a certain position.

However, according to the German Press we have no further room for investments into our squad.  The guaranteed sum of around 20 million euros for playing the group-stage of the Champions League is already used up.  The transfer of Schürrle (8-10 million euros), the stadium upgrade (costs: around 80 million euros, financed by a 0% interest loan from the Bayer AG), contract extensions and generous investments in new players at times where the Werkself did not play internationally could mean that we will not see further spectacular signings this summer apart from André Schürrle.  

Transfer Balance
negative= Expenditure in Transfers > Income from Transfers
positive=
Income from Transfers > Expenditure in Transfers

currently Season 2011/12: -10.200.000 €
Season 2010/11: +850.000 € (Winter-Sale of Helmes turned balance positive)
Season 2009/10: -4.950.000 €
Season 2008/09: -7.050.000 €
Season 2007/08: -7.180.000 €
Season 2006/07: +8.270.000 €
Season 2005/06: +1.565.000 €
Season 2004/05: +11.986.000 €
<<W.Holzhäuser substitutes R.Calmund as CEO with the objective to reduce the accumulated debt during our great years>>
Season 2003/04: -1.200.000
Season 2002/03: -13.450.000 € (relegation was avoided in the last fixture)
Season 2001/02: -2.150.000 € (3x 2.place)

More details>> Transfermarkt.de 

Find below a personal review on the individual season performances of the current squad and new signings; players that will continue on loan or be sold; or have left us this year.

Legend

Red= player leaving us
Green= new signing
Blue= future uncertain

Rating= from 1 (lowest) to 10 (highest).  

RB= right-back
CB= centre-back
LB= left-back
DM= defensive midfield
RM= right midfield
LM= left midfield
OM= offensive midfield (central)
ST= striker

CURRENT SQUAD AND NEW SIGNINGS

GOALKEEPERS

René Adler: Overall steady from beginning to end with not many point losing mistakes.  Spectacular saves from him have been rare this season compared to other years.  Should extend his contract (running till 2012) in the next 2-3 weeks. *7*

Fabian Giefer: Did a good job when René Adler was out in two Bundesliga and two Europa League games. Good prospects for the future! *6*

Benedikt Fernandez: Played for the reserve team, will move to a 2.Bundesliga team. (contract expires) *no rating*

Tomasz Bobel: No match practice, will leave us too (contract expires). *no rating*

We will need to sign a third goalkeeper or promote one from the youth team.

DEFENSE

Gonzalo Castro (RB,LB,LM): Seems to perform at a higher level in midfield, where ball losses and poor positioning are less noticeable. His three goals and seven assists in the Bundesliga, show his offensive potential. *7*

Daniel Schwaab (RB,CB): Was stronger this season in the centre-back position than as right-back. His change of position arose due to Hyypiä’s declining physical form. Great at initiating attacks from defense (can run forward with the ball and play a difficult pass). A quality which Stefan Reinartz and Manuel Friedrich lack. *7*

Stefan Reinartz (CB,DM): Not dynamic enough for the centre-back position, although he improved in the second part of the season. However, quick and agile strikers will continue to have it easy against him. Better off in defensive midfield. *4*

Manuel Friedrich (CB): Had a good stretch of games before the winter break. A shoulder injury made him miss most of the second part of the season. Given his age (32 in August) little room for physical improvement (slow). *5*

Sami Hyypiä (CB): It was an honor to have such a great player in our team. His second season at Bayer 04 was marked by an injury before the winter-break followed by a declining physical form during the rest of the season. Sami decided to renounce his last year of contract as he did not feel confident on playing another season at the level he would like to.  The Finnish player will use next season to obtain his coaching license.  He will work as an assistant to Finland’s national coach Mika-Matti Paatelainen and undergo trainee-ships at different clubs including Bayer 04. In 2012/13 he will join the Werkself as assistant coach for at least two years. *6*

Ömer Toprak (CB): New signing for Leverkusen coming from Freiburg. We have been following this centre-back the last three years.  A severe karting accident at the beginning of 2009 stopped his progression, he was out for over six months.  It took quite a while till he reached the level before the incident, 2010 was surely not his year.   In 2011 he had four decent games over the full distance, but once the news got out that he would move to Leverkusen, his performances dropped again.  Ömer finished the season with a red card, that did not allow him to play the season finale against Bayer 04. *4*

Michal Kadlec (LB,LM): Improved in comparison to last season, but never regained the level of his first year with Bruno Labbadia. Linked with Liverpool in the last months. *7*

Bastian Oczipka (LB,LM): This Bayer youngster has been on loan for three years, first at Hansa Rostock and then St.Pauli. In both clubs he was part of the starting line-up and therefore added 82 league games on both loan spells. Bastian played a great Bundesliga season but suffered a bone injury in the 23rd fixture which put an end to it. He is considered as one of the uprising German talents on the left back position together with Marcel Schmelzer (Dortmund) and Felix Bastians (Freiburg). With his return to Leverkusen, Kadlec will finally have the chance to receive a rest when needed.  As mentioned above he could also be the replacement for the Czech player in case of a transfer to Liverpool.  The initial report of Bild that Oczipka would be sold to Hoffenheim for 3 million Euros was false, the player confirmed his return last week in an interview. *7*

Domagoj Vida (RB,CB): Played only one Bundesliga and eight Europa League games. Solid on the defensive end, Domagoj should concentrate on improving his game going forward, especially passing and centers. Despite having some experience as centre-back in his previous team NK Osijek, Jupp Heynckes did not consider him for this position mainly because of his height (1,82 m), a factor he considers important. If Robin Dutt thinks the same will have to be seen. I expect him to break-through next season, considering that his first year was also marked by the adaptation to a new environment (did not speak any word of English or German when he arrived). *4*

Danny da Costa (RB,CB,RM): The youth player gave a solid debut with the first team against Atletico Madrid. Physically strong and versatile, I hope he gets more minutes next season despite sitting his Baccalaureate. If you look at the current squad: only Adler, Castro and Reinartz have made themselves with a regular place in the team coming from the youth section of Bayer 04. Too little, for a club that is praised nationwide for its excellent work in this area. *no rating*

MIDFIELD

Arturo Vidal (DM, RB): The Chilean played an extraordinary season with ten goals and nine assists in the league. It is no wonder that he has caught the attention of many big clubs (Bayern, Chelsea, Valencia, Atletico Madrid, Inter/AC Milan…).  Known in the past for too many aggressive fouls and cards, Arturo has managed to finish the Bundesliga season with only four yellows and one yellow-red in 33 games. His contract expires in 2012 and he has so far rejected all contract extension offers. Both Holzhäuser and Völler said recently that he will play so or so next season with us. Is this just a way to increase the price tag or are we really going to hold onto him without seeing a buck next year if he continues to reject a contract extension and signs with another team? *10*

Sidney Sam (RM,LM): One of the best newcomers in the 1.Bundesliga.  Seven goals and three assists is a dream start for him in Germany’s highest division. Jupp Heynckes preferred him to play Robben style (strong left foot) on the right side, will Dutt too? *8*

Simon Rolfes (DM): Had a couple of good games (especially the one against Wolfsburg) when he came back from his injury but in the last matches of the season declined severely and was consequently taken out of the starting line-up. A large proportion of the Fans see him inadequate for the captain role, because he often fails to deliver in big games. They want to see Michael Ballack as captain. I personally doubt that Robin Dutt will have the “balls” to change the leadership in the team.  I would welcome it, but it’s a tough decision that can affect the atmosphere in the team!   *5*

Renato Augusto (RM,OM,LM): With six goals and six assists this was his best season at Leverkusen. Playing in a central position helped him to step-up his game. Renato has learned to minimize his ball losses by avoiding risky dribbling in situations that could lead to a counter-attack. His work against the ball has also improved *9*

Lars Bender (DM): Despite having strong competitors on his position (Rolfes, Vidal and Ballack) Lars played 26 Bundesliga games and fulfilled his role regularly. A player with great prospects for the future. *7*

Hanno Balitsch (RB,DM,CB): His signing was seen skeptical by many fans at the beginning but he quickly turned this around with his fighter nature on the pitch. Great versatile back-up player! *6*

Michael Ballack (DM/OM): Chased by injuries in 2010, he has given the team some stability in the last stretch of games. Hopefully we will see next season the real Ballack giving the team a lot of goals and assists! *6*

Kevin Kampl (DM): The twenty year-old Slovenian youth player did not get a chance to play with the professional team. Future uncertain! *no rating*

Burak Kaplan (RM,LM): Was loaned out to Greuther Fürth (2.Bundesliga) in the winter-break. Despite being technically gifted, he is not making the next step given his difficult character. Jupp Heynckes more than once criticized his attitude in the training sessions. Only played four games in the Europa League in which he did not convince. At Greuther Fürth he scored three goals (all by set-piece) but his loaning spell ended with a disciplinary suspension by coach Michael Büskens which made him return to Bayer 04 earlier than expected. Will be loaned out again or sold. *2*

Tranquillo Barnetta (RM,LM): Not a great year for last-season assist leader of the Werkself. Only two goals and two assists in 24 league games are poor stats for the Swiss national player. An injury made him miss most of the second part of the season. Every year there are rumours that he might leave us, looking at the signings of Schürrle and Bellarabi his future at Bayer 04 is again uncertain. *3*

André Schürrle (LM,RM,ST): Mainz’s success this season is mainly due to his impressive year (15 goals / 5 assists). The signing will cost us 8 to 10 million euros depending on our results. *10*

Karim Bellarabi (RM,ST): This German-Moroccan 21 year-old talent of Eintracht Braunschweig was chased by a few Bundesliga clubs this season including Dortmund and Hoffenheim. Personally I never have seen him play but from what I heard he is a very quick right midfielder/striker. This season he scored in the 3.Liga eight goals and gave sixteen assists in 35 games.  He comes on a free transfer. There has been no talk about loaning him out, so he is set to be another speedy alternative on the wings next to Sidney Sam and André Schürrle. *7*

ATTACK

Eren Derdiyok (ST): Some of his six goals in the league were a real beauty, but he will want to forget this season as quickly as possible. Especially his barren run between fixture 8 and 23 (872 minutes) in which he did not score a single Bundesliga goal. Needs to improve his pressing on the rival defense and make more out of his chances.  Last week linked to FC Sevilla, I don’t think he will switch Champions League for Europa League *4*

Stefan Kießling (ST,RM): Best Werkself striker this season with seven goals and three assists. However Stefan could not confirm the great performance of last season. The long injury and formation change surely played a part but the blond striker also missed quite a lot of open chances on goal in the last games of the season which could have increased his account significantly. *5*

Nicolai Jörgensen (ST,LM,RM): While Domagoj Vida showed that he has potential, Nicolai in his nine Bundesliga and seven Europa League game did not display signs of quality. A season on loan could do him well. *2*

PLAYERS THAT WILL CONTINUE ON LOAN OR BE SOLD

Zvonko Pamic (RM,OM): He was signed last summer for 500.000 EUR from HNK Rijeka and directly loaned out to Freiburg. Despite playing a good Under-19 European Championship (3 goals and 1 assist) Robin Dutt only gave him a few minutes in two Bundesliga games. He will be loaned another year to MSV Duisburg (2.Bundesliga). *no rating*

Jens Hegeler (DM, RM,CB): Together with Bastian Oczipka the best performing Bayer 04 player on loan this season and partly responsible for Nuremberg’s success this year. He returned last summer to Leverkusen after a 1 ½ year loan spell at FC Augsburg (2.Bundesliga) and asked to be loaned out again considering that he will have it hard to obtain match practise with the signing of Michael Ballack.  Jens played all 34 Bundesliga games at Nuremberg scoring three goals and giving three assists. Although more a defensive midfielder, he has played several games on the right wing. His loan spell finishes in 2012, if Leverkusen decides to sell him Nuremberg has a preference purchase right. *7*

Lucas (CB): This 19 year-old talent is a ghost, as hardly any information is available on him.  More than a year ago Leverkusen’s scouts discovered Lucas in Brazil and decided to sign the tall center-back from Associação Portuguesa de Desportos (Sao Paulo).  Last summer, he was supposed to take part in the season preparation of the professional team and play in some friendlies. It did not happen.  In January 2011 he was sent on loan for 1 1/2 years to Kaiserslautern, where he did not play a single game nor sat on the bench this season.  The club from the Betzenberg was granted a purchase option.  *no rating*

Hajime Hosogai (DM,LB): Regarded in Japan as one of the best players of the J-League, Hajime had a hard time to find a spot on the starting line-up of Augsburg.  Only at the end of the season did he play a few games over the full distance. His loan spell ends in the June 2012. *3*

Thanos Petsos (RB,DM): The greek Under-21 player was loaned out this summer to Kaiserlautern. Normally a right-back in the youth teams of Bayer 04, he made himself with a place in the first eleven as defensive midfielder from Fixture 12 onwards. He will continue for another season at Kaiserlautern. *5*

Richard Sukuta-Pasu (ST): In his second season at St.Pauli, Richie continued to struggle.  He only got play 155 minutes in the Bundesliga (1 goal + 1 assist). His loan spell at St.Pauli ends this summer and Kaiserlautern seems to be keen on purchasing the striker. *1*

Constant Djakpa (LB,LM): Not more than a back-up player at Hannover. It is not expected that the German club will make use of the purchase option.  Bayer 04 is likely to sell him.  According to English news reports, Newcastle United is interested in the player. *2*

PLAYERS THAT LEFT US THIS SEASON

Patrick Helmes (ST): Was sold in the winter-break after disagreements with coach Jupp Heynckes over his standing in the team. Unsatisfied with the amount of minutes he got to play, the 1-striker tactical formation and the demands of doing more defensive work on the pitch, he switched to Wolfsburg for an initial fee of 5 million and 3 million euros in installments. Under coach Steve McClaren and later Felix Magath he did not manage to make an impact. Patrick only scored one goal in seven matches and was more a substitute than a starter. Magath declared in an interview that he should improve his physical condition. Personally, I am not a fan of Helmes (passive player) and think that if he wants to be successful in the future he will have to work on his weaknesses, something he has was not prepared to do in Leverkusen (kept complaining). *4*

Marcel Risse (RM,LM): The winger has grown at Mainz despite not being a regular starter. In 25 league games he scored 2 goals and gave 5 assists. Risse was loaned out at the beginning of this season and Mainz used the purchase option of 800.000 Euros to acquire him. The amount was initially higher but was then reduced in the negotiations for the Schürrle Transfer. *6*

THOUGHTS ON NEXT SEASON’S SQUAD & TACTICS

I like very much the idea of improving our wings with speedy players; this seems to be the objective with the transfers of André Schürrle and Karim Bellarabi. Under Heynckes the wingers were told to go inside and look for a finish or pass. With Robin Dutt as coach we can expect a few more centers from the goal line. The 1-striker formation (4-2-3-1) is likely to continue.  At Freiburg our new coach used successfully Cissé (22 goals) as lonely striker. Whether Kiessling or Derdiyok can deliver in similar fashion is a big question. Has it do with the tactics we played under Heynckes (not enough centres? too defensive?) that they had such a poor record or are both not made to play lonely in attack?

In the last days I have been thinking that selling Vidal would be not totally wrong.  If we really have no more room for further investments in our rather weak central defense, would it not make sense to let him leave for 20 million euros (to a foreign club, not Bayern!)? We would receive 70% of the transfer fee (Colo Colo 30%), 14 million euros and could replace for example Manuel Friedrich with a quality centre-back like Höwedes, Dante, Mertesacker.  Another option would be moving Reinartz into midfield to avoid having five centre-backs for two positions.

Hyypiä has led very well our defense in the last two years, I have my doubts that between Schwaab, Reinartz, M.Friedrich and Toprak a new leader can emerge who will coordinate our defensive line in a similar way. Against medium/bottom table teams this can be enough, but to make another step forward and play an even better season I see this configuration insufficient.

Looking forward to your comments, there is a lot to talk about 😉

Match Preview: Bundesliga, Fixture 31, Bayer Leverkusen vs 1899 Hoffenheim

Saturday 23/04/2011 @15:30 (GMT+2)

Press conference (Thursday)

Opening statement Assistant Coach Peter Hermann (Heynckes was ill with the flu): Everyone can imagine that this was not an easy week for us.  On Monday we analysed the Bayern game and had a few conversations to find out what happened in Munich.  The training performances improved as the week progressed.  We are now focused on Hoffenheim, which will also be a difficult game.  Despite the severe defeat, which was no doubt a big frustration for us, we continue to be in a good position in the table.  The team has added 61 points that is already more than the entire last season.  These 61 points derived from hard work and have not be won in the lottery.  We want to display again a good performance like we did in the weeks before Bayern.  I have a positive feeling for this match as the team has worked very focused during the week and all players are available.  Our objective is to deliver an attractive game for the fans to apologize for the bad display in Munich. We will make this happen!

Question: How difficult was it to work with the team this week, given the 5-1 and Heynckes absence due to illness?

Hermann: The players have a good character, it was therefore no problem.  They were aggressive in the training sessions and heated discussions took also place.  I think this is positive.

Question: You said that the team invested too little in Munich, how did the players take this statement?

Hermann: We were bad at both ends and gave Bayern too much space because the players did not run enough.  Sometimes it’s difficult to find the reason for this.  It’s not the first time, also against Mönchengladbach it was similar.  However we always came back after these defeats.  This will be the case on Saturday.

Question: Bayern is 6 points behind, do you think this is a comfortable situation or could the race for the second position get exciting?

Hermann: This is a good lead, but Bayern can win all 4 games.  We need to get the needed points to make the direct qualification for the Champions League perfect.  We are not a young team anymore, there is a good mix of quality players who exactly know in which competition they want to play next season.

Question: How do you judge Hoffenheim at the moment?

Hermann: Hoffenheim can play a good ball.  They had their ups and downs this season.  Now there is no pressure for them being in the middle of the table.  This can be to our advantage or disadvantage.  We need to look at us and give our best.

Question: Were you happy after the game that Bayern Munich will be your next employer?

Hermann: I did not think about that. I felt ashamed, all I had on my mind was to get back to the team bus and talk to nobody.

Line-up

Heynckes/Hermann have two options: line-up the same eleven to give them a chance to make up for the Bayern loss or introduce changes.

Line-up Hoffenheim (from Kicker):
Starke – Beck,Vorsah,Compper,Braafheid – Rudy,Kaiser – Sigurdsson,Alaba – Babel,Ibisevic

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There are rumours that Rene Adler’s contract extension will be soon announced! At the moment there are no offers from other clubs.

The Werkself back on the training ground / Heynckes contract extension?

The first official training session after the winter break will be held today at 15:00 (GMT+1) in the Ulrich-Haberland Stadium (pitch next to BayArena, used by the second team). Michael Ballack, Patrick Helmes and Stefan Kiessling had little time off over Christmas and New Year, as they followed an individual training plan to recover from their injuries. All three should participate in the team’s training session today.

Bayer 04 will play two friendlies away before the big clash against Borussia Dortmund on the 14 of Janaury:

Thursday, 06/01/2011, 18:00 (GMT+1): RW Oberhausen vs Bayer 04
Sunday, 09/01/2011, 15:00 (GMT+1): Vfl Osnabrück vs Bayer 04

Helmes, Kiessling and Ballack should get their minutes in these games.  At the moment it seems that both matches will not be televised.

Jupp Heynckes gave a short Interview to the newspaper Bild today, in which he continues to maintain that he will decide his future (1-year extension) in a couple of months. However once club boss Holzhäuser returns from his holidays in the next days, Leverkusen will definitely push towards a decision. By end of January there should be clarity on this matter.  The big topic of discussion in the negotiations is the investment in new signings next years and that vital players like Adler and Vidal are kept.  Heynckes wants to make sure that he can continue to improve the team if a Champions League spot is reached.  Leverkusen has invested a lot of money in the last years (new signings, contract extensions,stadium…), there could be a temptation to aim for a very good financial year instead of continue growing a team that could win something.

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Centre-Back Jarosik to Leverkusen? Link
Agger seems to be off the table: Link