Geissblog.Koeln’s Marc L. Merten has suggested that mounting injuries and Leverkusen’s sudden burst of offensive effectiveness, may inspire Peter Stöger to use five defenders Saturday at BayArena.
In the three matches preceding last weekend’s 2:1 loss to VfL Wolfsburg, Bayer compiled 15 goals. Yes, six came against regional league side Viktoria Köln, but that still leaves an impressive eight goals split evenly between a Bundesliga opponent (VfB Stuttgart) and a top-flight Italian side in Champions League (AS Roma).
It was just over eleven months ago when the effzeh last played at BayArena, using a five-man back line for the first time under Stöger. Matthias Lehmann drew and converted a Bernd Leno penalty to give the Billy Goats a 0:1 in just the fourth minute. Minutes later, a long ball to Anthony Ujah drew another foul from Leno, but Thorsten Kinhöfer declined to show a second yellow to the Bayer keeper and put the effzeh again at the penalty spot. Eventually, Bayer broke through for the equalizer and then the lead before piling on while our guys pressed to get back into the game, which finished 5:1.
But don’t let that final score obscure the fact that the five-man back line and incredibly compact defense had effectively neutralized Bayer for much of the match. The first two goals for the home side resulted from free-kick situations, which will be dangerous again this year with the continued presence of Hakan Canhaloglu.
With Dominic Maroh substituting last weekend for Frederik Sørensen and immediately providing for a calmer scene in the central defense, it seemed as if last year’s regular presence would be reclaiming his spot and sending Sørensen to the bench for a while. But if Stöger decides to roll with the five-man back line again in Leverkusen, it could be that both Sørensen and Maroh will take the pitch with Dominique Heintz.
So, what do you think coach?
“That is an option.”
Well, we know Stöger tends to say as little as possible when discussing tactics and personnel before a match, so there’s no surprise that he would decline to indicate his thoughts on the matter any more than acknowledging that it’s a possibility given the players on the roster.
Further, it would not be the first time that Sørensen returned to the starting eleven the match following a poor performance. In the wake of the effzeh‘s 6:2 loss in Frankfurt, Sørensen’s defense was among the main factors called into question for the rout. With Maroh having just returned from his preseason injury, a switch seemed natural. Yet, when the team was announced for the derby against Mönchengladbach the following week, there was Sørensen right next to Heintz, just as he’s been every match since, excepting the one at Bayern for which Maroh was inserted between the two newcomers.
And in case you haven’t been following that closely, the Heintz-Sørensen tandem has largely been quite effective, despite the occasional hiccup.
Stöger credits Sørensen’s confidence for helping the Dane to bounce back from bad moments.
“To do things wrong is no issue with us. To do nothing, is a huge issue,” says the coach. “He is a young player. “He does not doubt himself. The doubt comes from outside.”
With Marcel Risse joining the back line at least until Pawel Olkowski returns from injury, having the added support of a third central defender could be key to reducing risk while utilizing the offensive capabilities of Risse and Jonas Hector on the ends of the defensive row. Sending Risse and Hector forward for the rare-to-occasional foray into Leverkusen’s end of the field maintains a level of security through the added presence back there. It helps, too, that Maroh is a veteran presence in that role.
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