With the new season just around the corner, we take a look at the options for Bayer Leverkusen across their defense.
|Thilo Kehrer.||Photo: Steffen Prößdorf, CC BY-SA 4.0|
If one indulges in rumors and reports fresh from the oven, it almost seems like Bayer Leverkusen are playing FIFA career mode. The defense needed a new look altogether, which has been achieved for the major part. While the leadership qualities and experience of the departing Bender twins and Dragovic has been lost, the new signings (and possible future signings) are players with huge potential, and could make for a solid Bayer defense in the coming season.
Bulinews takes a look at the options for Die Werkself across their defense:
The left-back position, while always showing potential, has not exactly been a safe and reliable point in the Bayer defense. Wendell, who started off as a player with huge potential, has failed to be consistent in the past few seasons. The Brazilian, who enters the final year of his contract, is expected to leave should a suitable offer arrive.
For a long time, Wendell was the only out and out left-back at the club. That changed when Peter Bosz brought in Daley Sinkgraven, who had previously played under Bosz at Ajax, and had a good relationship with the coach. While showing potential, even he was not able to consistently perform and make the starting left-back role his own. Injuries have, in part, been responsible for this.
Nevertheless, now the factory club have a new face in the position, with Mitchel Bakker joining from PSG for 7 million Euros. The Dutchman has impressed in his limited playing time with PSG and comes in with Champions League experience under his belt at a young age. Something to watch out for from him would be precise crossing, especially as head coach Seoane likes his full-backs to overlap. Perhaps he can bring about the consistency that others have failed to.
A position of real concern in the summer was the central defense. With the loss of Bender and Dragovic, the team lost not only two reliable defenders, but also two vocal leaders who could marshal that defense. Moreover, Tin Jedvaj and Panagiotis Retsos were not exactly the ideal replacements waiting in the wings. Holding on to Jonathan Tah is important, to maintain some cohesion of the defense with the rest of the team. Being one of the candidates to take up the armband after Aranguiz gave up captaincy shows that he does have it in him to lead the defense. It will also be important for him to perform, having previously been kept out of the team by Edmond Tapsoba. Now, he must perform and cement his place in central defense, especially with the injury to Tapsoba.
With Odilon Kossounou, the scouting prowess of the club was once again shown. The Ivorian is certainly a star in the making and with Edmond Tapsoba might form one of the most exciting defensive partnerships in Europe.
Another possible reinforcement is Piero Hincapie, who according to Sky Germany's Max Bielefeld, should complete a move to the factory club in the coming days. With this addition, the central defense looks solid in terms of quality, and in favorable conditions the team could become a "mean side to play against", as Gerardo Seoane expects.
Finally onto a matter far more pressing than it looks from the outside. Many have even gone to the extent to call the right back position at the Werkself a 'cursed position'. In the second half of last season, the club had 5 out and out right backs in Arias, Fosu-Mensah, Frimpong, Lars Bender, and Weiser, and yet Dragovic and Jedvaj had to fill in there.
Yeah, cursed seems about right.
Even though the board spent money on the position in the winter on not one, but two players in the position, there is a need yet again. Fosu-Mensah is out injured, and while there is no doubt about the attacking threat and potential of Jeremie Frimpong, his defensive abilities are still a work in progress. Mitchell Weiser has been out of favor for a while and it is doubtful if many Leverkusen fans would be sad to see him go.
Bayer need a robust operator down that right hand side, who is reliable, consistent and most importantly stays fit. Arias was expected to be that man last season, but the curse caught up to him as well. The Columbian could however, get another shot at it, with Kicker reporting that Arias is still on the shopping list. He has been playing for Atletico Madrid in pre season and his complex injury seems to have healed completely.
Another possible candidate is Thilo Kehrer (24) of Paris Saint Germain. According to L'equipe, Bayer have made an offer for the former Schalke player. However, it seems to be far from the 20 million Euros that PSG should be looking for.
It remains to be seen who Bayer opt for, but a new right-back must be on the cards and one can only hope whoever it is ends the curse once and for all.