Bayer 04 Leverkusen showed in the game at FC Augsburg how little homogenous the team coached by Xabi Alonso is this season. Everyone is waiting for the long-term injured attacker Patrik Schick.
The look seemed helpless, the eyes seemed to look into emptiness. Xabi Alonso couldn’t believe his eyes as the Bayer 04 Leverkusen coach watched for 90 minutes. A 1-0 defeat at FC Augsburg that revealed the whole of his team’s struggles this season. After five wins, two defeats in a row put the brakes on the Werkself’s upward trend.
Far too little converges at the front, and there are too many gaps at the back to be successful. “We didn’t have the energy we needed in the opponent’s penalty area,” said Alonso. “The fact that he’s so free to head the ball is very annoying and pisses me off,” said Bayer midfielder Robert Andrich, referring to FC attacker Mergim Berisha, who scored the goal of the evening (55th).
In the desolate midfield
After 19 Bundesliga games, the Werkself are in the bleak midfield of the league. And so uninspired, the Leverkusen present themselves more often – not least in Augsburg. 52 percent ball possession, a lot of play around the opponent’s penalty area, but almost no scoring chances is the record against the Bavarian Swabians. “We don’t have a nine,” said Alonso, making it clear how much the long-term injured Patrik Schick is missing from the team.
“Patrik is feeling better but not completely fit yet,” said the coach. The Czech, last year’s second top scorer in the Bundesliga with 24 goals, has not played a competitive game since November 1 due to groin problems. Last year, Leverkusen scored 44 goals at the same time, this season there are only 30. Neither Adam Hlozek (2 goals, 4 assists) nor Sardar Azmoun (0 goals, 0 assists) have been able to fill the gap so far.
Defensively as holey as last year
However, the reason is not only in the center of the storm. With Florian Wirtz, the brain in midfield fell out for more than half a year due to a cruciate ligament rupture. The 19-year-old is currently trying to take the first steps towards reintegrating into the team.
And if the old sportsman’s rule of thumb still applies, that it takes a player about as long to reach full fitness as his injury lasted, then everyone at Leverkusen will need a lot of patience. In any case, Kerem Demirbay, the intended replacement for Wirtz at headquarters, was never able to fill this role on an equal footing.
With 31 goals conceded, the Alonso defense is just as holey as last year, but the offensive at the time was able to cover up the weaknesses in defense, which is not possible this season.
International competition at risk
Under the Bayer cross, the question is slowly arising as to whether the team can at least reach an international competition outside of the Champions League they are actually aiming for. The Alonso team is not yet hopelessly beaten. This would require a permanent increase in performance. With appearances like in Augsburg, however, the prospect of this should dwindle significantly.