Pressure on Bayer Leverkusen after indifferent season start
BERLIN (AP) — Bayer Leverkusen coach Heiko Herrlich is under pressure after an indifferent start to the season.
The club had hopes of challenging for a top-four place and qualification for the Champions League, but Herrlich’s team is 13th with just two wins from its opening eight games in the Bundesliga.
Four of those games ended in defeat and there were jeers for the side from its own supporters last Saturday after Karim Bellarabi only salvaged a 2-2 draw against 10-man Hannover in injury time. Leverkusen drew 0-0 at Freiburg the week before.
Kicker magazine reported Thursday that Leverkusen had already been in touch with former Leipzig coach Ralph Hasenhuettl about taking over. Hasenhuettl apparently said a new coaching role was not in his thinking just now.
Leverkusen sporting director Rudi Voeller said after the draw against Hannover that Herrlich’s position was not in question and there was “no ultimatum for the coach, not at the moment” after the latest disappointing performance.
Herrlich had no top-flight experience before he took over. He was appointed on a two-year contract ahead of last season after leading Jahn Regensburg to the second division straight from Germany’s fourth-tier.
The 46-year-old helped Leverkusen qualify for the Europa League in fifth place but his first season was marred by inconsistency, allowing Hoffenheim and Borussia Dortmund to finish ahead on goal difference for Champions League qualification.
The problems seem more pronounced this season, despite his side taking the lead in five of the eight league games. Herrlich’s team doesn’t look as fresh or resolute as it did at times last season.
“There are players here who certainly appear to have an apathy, as if they’re not 100 percent there,” Herrlich acknowledged. “However, that’s also a kind of strength. When the results are positive, everything’s OK. If not, you’re looking for an excuse.”
Leverkusen, a team of undoubted quality and potential, appears to have a problem of mentality. It seems unable to protect a lead.
Penalties, too, are an issue. Wendell missed an early penalty against Hannover, not for the first time. The Brazilian defender missed on the final day of last season, also against Hannover. Of 16 penalties over the last three seasons. Leverkusen has only converted eight.
Leverkusen captain Lars Bender said the side was short on confidence, while suggesting that the players also needed to work much harder.
“I don’t this is what we had in mind,” Bender said after the lackluster Hannover game. “You need conviction, and I believe we are not going at it in many situations with the necessary conviction.”
Goalkeeper Lukas Hradecky agreed.
“Our game would look a lot different if we took the initiative,” Hradecky said. “I don’t know if everyone believes in themselves. It can’t go on like this.”
After playing at FC Zurich in the Europa League on Thursday, Leverkusen visits high-flying Werder Bremen in the Bundesliga on Sunday, before a difficult trip to Borussia Moenchengladbach in the second round of the German Cup on Wednesday.
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