Goals from Patrik Schick, Moussa Diaby, Nadiem Amiri, and an own-goal by Yann Sommer succumbed Borussia Mönchengladbach to a thrashing. Losing 4-0 to a side who they supposedly should be competing with for a Champions League place is not a great marker to be setting so early in the campaign. Here I will be looking at what went right for Bayer Leverkusen and what did not for Gladbach.
A tale of two goalkeepers
Lukas Hradecky put in one of his best performances in a Leverkusen shirt while Yann Sommer had a day to forget. The finnish keeper denied Lars Stindl from the penalty spot as well as making five other saves. As for Sommer, who is coming off the back of a terrific European Championships, could have been seen as culpable for three of Leverkusen's four goals. The first being his own goal. Mitchel Bakker, making his BayArena debut, hit a speculative shot which bounced off the post onto Sommer and into the net. Sommer's reaction time was relatively poor and could have potentially saved it. A couple minutes later and Leverkusen had doubled their advantage. Schick's powerful shot which Sommer got a hand on ended up in the corner of the goal. This would be the harshest of the lot as the Czech striker hit the ball with a lot of venom but a goalkeeper of such high calibre could have done better. The last of the three was Nadiem Amiri's in injury time. A delightful goal from Gerardo Seoane's point of view, Florian Wirtz provided a wonderful clipped cross for Amiri to attack. But the attacking midfielder who was a part of Germany's Olympic squad hit a weak shot that managed to squirm past Sommer. Albeit the game was well and truly over at this point, the Swiss shot stopper probably should have saved it meaning the score would have finished 3-0. Sommer's match was very out of character, anyone that saw his performances at the European Championships could see what a quality goalkeeper he is. But for some reason this is the second season in a row where he has been culpable of a few howlers at the BayArena.
The xG battle.
Interestingly, the xG (Expected Goals) was very similar between the two sides. Bayer Leverkusen had 1.95 xG while Borussia Mönchengladbach had 1.66 xG (albeit slightly skewed by the penalty). This does give a slight indication that 4-0 was a somewhat flattering score but also highlights that Bayer Leverkusen possessed a finishing touch that escaped the visitors. Gladbach also edged the possession stakes, finishing with 52% of the ball. The fact that two of Leverkusen's goals came from counter attacks gives an indication that was part of their ultimately successful game plan.
Unforeseen injury issues
Another problem, Adi Hutter's side picked up in Leverkusen was four injuries to key players. Marcus Thuram, Stefan Lainer, Matthias Ginter and Alassane Plea all had to hobble off at different stages of the match. Thuram departed in the early echelons of the game, had he stayed on for the entirety of the affair, the scoreline may have had a different look to it. As of Monday, Lainer is the only one to have had the extent of his injury confirmed. Sadly for the Austrian full back he will miss a substantial period of the campaign with a broken ankle. This will leave a gap in Gladbach's defense as he has been extremely consistent since arriving at Borussia-Park in 2019. Marcus Thuram and Alassane Plea are both still undergoing medical examination.
The midfield conundrum
This is where the game was won and lost. Leverkusen's midfield trio of Charles Aranguiz, Ezequiel Palacios and Kerem Demirbay had too much for their counterparts in black and white of Christoph Kramer, Florian Neuhaus and Lars Stindl. Aranguiz and Palacios sat in a double pivot while the more technical but less dynamic Demirbay played in the No.10 role. Gladbach initially matched up like for like but after suffering multiple injuries reverted to a flat 4-4-2 with Kramer and Neuhaus in the middle. Without Denis Zakaria, who is likely to be leaving Borussia-Park before the end of August, Gladbach lack anyone in midfield with any sort of athleticism. Florian Neuhaus is a wonderful footballer as is Jonas Hofmann but while both are full of energy neither have a significant burst of speed. As for Christoph Kramer, his decline has been quite evident for the last few seasons. He is seen as a holding midfielder but on Saturday he offered very little protection for the defence and his distribution was extremely poor. Kouadio Kone could be the eventual answer to their lack of athleticism but he is currently injured after arriving from Toulouse. For now, a midfield pivot of Jonas Hofmann and Neuhaus could be the answer as it worked well at times last season. In particular in the 1-0 win over Leipzig. As for Leverkusen, the South American duo of Aranguiz and Palacios were terrific. Snapping into tackles and moving the ball progressively forward for the likes of Moussa Diaby and the returning Paulinho to counter at speed.
Despite Gladbach's issues nothing should be taken away from the quality in which Leverkusen opened them up time and time again. Moussa Diaby is likely to be the main man this season after the departure of Leon Bailey and based off Saturday's performance looks like he is taking a shine to that. Next for Die Werkself is a trip to FC Augsburg. While Gladbach look to write a few wrongs as they travel to Der Alten Forsterei to face Union Berlin.