A hat trick by Patrick Helmes and an unrelenting offense saw Bayer Leverkusen take apart Hannover 96 tonight. The illness and injury riddles Reds, were humiliated by Bayer 04, but also their lack of fight as they seemed disinterested in the proceedings.
Bayer have the most fluid attack in the Bundesliga with Rofles and Augusto quickly becoming the top central tandem in the league. Barnetta, Castro and Vidal are able to spread the game from the channels as well as cut inside. Keissling has the ability to create from anywhere in the final third and Helmes has the pace and finishing that has them playing like Werder Bremen (of the past two seasons) with a solid defense. And they have some kid in goal, who is supposed to be good.
While Augusto and Helmes are getting the most attention, the loan deal for Henrique was just as important this past summer for Bruno Labbadia. The Barcelona player shored up the defense tonight with Freidrich suspended and has played every match so far.
1. Fly Like an Eagle
Last week Rene Adler looked off the boil in the loss to Hamburg. It was his first game back following his shoulder injury and he was caught flat footed a number of times. I wonder if an easy game like this, were he was called on at most three times, was good or bad for him. Part of me thinks it gives him a game to get back to match readiness. He did show good confidence and decision making when he was involved. Plus another game with the Brazilian, Henrique, will only help their communication. However, part of me wonders if the amazing reaction saves will need time to until normal service is resumed, because he was never called on to make a save tonight.
2. It’s Getting Hot in Here
The 28’ minute substitution of Valérien Ismael for Frank Fahrenhorst, due to an injury might have saved Hannover more embarrassment. Fahrenhorst was the only player for the Reds to come out of this match with a reason to hold his head high. When he came on he shored up the defense quickly and his work in the remainder of the 2nd half kept Hannover in the game. In the second half he kept at least two more goals from being scored. Had Ismael not been injured, this could have well been a cricket score. Has he earned a starting spot?
3. Hannover 911
Already straddled with a slew of injuries to a small squad in a short week, the flu made the rounds through Hannover’s squad and took out more players including Mike Hanke. This week Forssell was forced out due to a calf injury and Bruggink was diagnosed with an infected sole. Add to that, the fact that Ismael and Schlaudraff were injured during the match and Hannover 96 is in real trouble.
4. Broken Wings
Tactically, Dieter Hecking didn’t adjust to his injury/illness crisis in the right way. He played Vicinius on the right wing. The big center half was never confident going forward and he was unable to cope with the quick attack down the wings by Leverkusen. Over on the left, he slotted in his holder Hanno Balitsch, which left his back four exposed until he brough4 Lala on in the second half. Balitsch looked even more uncomfortable on the right than Vicinius did on the left when it came to defending.
In addition, Chavdar Yankov was obviously another of his walking wounded. Why he removed Huszti, rather than a player who was nowhere near his usual energetic self, was odd to say the least.
I think Hecking would have been better off with a 3 man back line with Balitsch and Lulu in a double pivot in front of them. It would have been crude and cynical, but when you only have seventeen players fit, there’s no shame in playing for a road draw. With this much cover, they could have then deployed Schulz, Huszti, Rausch, Krebs or Pinto to play as modified wingbacks. One of the remaining could have been the playmaker to link with Staijner and Schlaudraff.
5. Hatrick Helmes (SIC)
Last week, there was a discussion on Bundesliga Talk about whether Schlaudraff or Helmes should replace the aging Klose and Neuville and the overrated Kuranyi for the German National team. While I don’t agree with Kuranyi’s label, I do agree with the tone of the debate, which is that new forwards need to be vetted. And based on not just a dazzling performance tonight by Helmes, but an incredible start to the season, I think the pickup from Koln wins hands down.