Opinion: Roger Schmidt had no more excuses | Sports| German football and major international sports news | DW | 04.03.2017
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Opinion: Roger Schmidt had no more excuses

Roger Schmidt had called on his players to step up to the plate but Bayer Leverkusen's failings this season are the responsibility of the manager, says DW's Matt Ford.

Another day, another defeat - and the pressure was too great in the end. Roger Schmidt had to go.

"If you're not up to scratch on match days and in training, you can't play for Bayer Leverkusen," he declared this week ahead of his side's trip to Borussia Dortmund, demanding "dependable players who are prepared to give 100 percent for the team."

The unreliable players, according to Schmidt, "need to pull their fingers out." Clearly, he believed it is the players who are responsible for a season which has so far fallen significantly short of expectations. 

Matt Ford Kommentarbild

DW's Matt Ford says Roger Schmidt must take the blame for Leverkusen's failures

Leverkusen targeted this season as the year in which they finally closed the gap on Bayern Munich and Borussia Dortmund. But the Werkself went into the fixture against Dortmund on the back of two straight home defeats - 4-2 against Atletico Madrid which sees them all but eliminated from the Champions League and 2-0 against Mainz. That marked their tenth league defeat of the season, as many as they suffered in the whole of the previous campaign.  


Now it's eleven, after Schmidt's side crashed to a 6-2 defeat at the Signal Iduna Park. "That was a brutal result," he lamented after the game. "We didn't play badly at all for long periods but Dortmund have so much quality up front."

"Look at the attackers they have," he reasoned. "They could play for any of Europe's top sides - Bayern Munich, Real Madrid, Barcelona. It's a question of quality."

Fußball Champions-League Bayer Leverkusen - Atletico Madrid (Getty Images/Bongarts/M. Hitij)

Naive Leverkusen were punished in the Champions League

Dortmund do boast a formidable attack. So do Atletico Madrid. Mainz, with respect, less so. But this should hardly come as a surprise to Schmidt. It was his job to prepare to deal with such quality, to identify and put into practice a suitable game plan, a job he too often failed to do.

Against Atletico in the Champions League, Leverkusen piled forward admirably but recklessly and were easily picked off on the counter-attack by Kevin Gameiro, Antoine Griezmann and Fernando Torres.

In Dortmund, they committed the same fatal errors and were punished accordingly - usually by the unstoppable Ousmane Dembele. Schmidt knows only one way to play - all out attack. It's exciting when it works, and Leverkusen do have the individual quality to make it work, but pragmatism, flexibility and rationale are also required. That comes from the manager.

Roger Schmidt und Rudi Völler (picture alliance/Eibner-Pressefoto)

Sporting director Rudi Völler (left) enjoyed relative success with Schmidt

Vulnerable from set pieces

Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang prodded home two almost identical goals after finding himself in yards of space at the back post from set pieces, just as Mainz scored twice from dead balls last week. Leverkusen have now conceded 16 goals from set plays this season - more than any other team in the Bundesliga.

When world-class strikers score world-class goals, you can hold your hands up and accept that there's little you could do. But Leverkusen are conceding goals which could be easily avoided with some diligent work on the training ground.

Then there's the question of the starting eleven. Against Dortmund, Javier Hernandez (ten goals this season), Kerim Bellarabi (four assists) and Julian Brandt (six assists) were conspicuous by their absence. But there was a place for 17-year-old Kai Havertz - a huge talent, no doubt, but a strange decision all the same. Indeed, Schmidt replaced the struggling Charles Aranguiz with Bellarabi before half-time - a tacit admission of his error?

Leverkusen had become one-dimensional, reliant on moments of individual quality and vulnerable from set-pieces - all areas which can be corrected by the manager who constructs a functioning team on the training ground.

Now, that is for someone else to do.

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