Despite getting their first win, Leverkusen have not played the best football. This week though, they have been reminded more of what they have rather than what they're missing. Step foward, Havertz and Brandt.
Like Schalke, Leverkusen have endured a poor start to the season. Underperforming after a year that showed plenty of promise has left both sides lagging behind at the start of the new season. This week though, Leverkusen got their first win and while they didn't impress, they did show they have something Schalke don't.
The German word Leistungsträger means key performer, but it translates literally as performance carrier. That is exactly what Kai Havertz and Julian Brandt are doing for Leverkusen at the moment. In the space of just four days, the pair have shown how pivotal they are to this Leverkusen side, and how they are carrying the club with their performances.
In their Europa League opener away in Bulgaria, Leverkusen started horribly and found themselves two goals down. Havertz scored two and Brandt set up one to seal the comeback. Both of Havertz's goals were examples of excellent technique, but also his persistence. Both were from outside the box, and the second came when the teenager somehow found space when there didn't appear to be any available.
A special connection
Against Mainz, Leverkusen were poor again. And then Brandt crossed perfectly for an unmarked Havertz and the game was won. Havertz finished the game not only having scored the winner, but having covered the most ground (12.09 kilometers) and the most sprints (28). Not for the first time, it felt as though Leverkusen were just waiting for the two to make their mark, and if they don't then neither do Leverkusen.
Questions will be asked about Heiko Herrlich, but the impressive nature of such game-changing performances shouldn't be lost in Leverkusen's current plight. Havertz and Brandt are just 19 and 22 respectively, but are leading by example. While these two fit the Bundesliga standard of experienced youngsters — Havertz is the youngest player in the league's history to reach 50 appearances and Julian Brandt has now played over 135 games in Germany's top flight — it is what they are doing with that experience that is special. They are using it to be the difference, and that is why Havertz has earned his first Germany call-up and Brandt has become a more prominent player in the Joachim Löw's squad. They are game changers.
Of course, Leon Bailey is often the third part of that attacking force, but it is Brandt and Havertz who are doing the hard work to spare Leverkusen their blushes. These two are playing well beyond the quality of this team. They are the club's superstars, capable of seemingly anything. They can even combine leadership beyond their years with Fortnite-styled goal celebrations. Simply put, these two are carrying Leverkusen at the moment.