On joining Bayer Leverkusen from Internacional for €13m earlier this week, Charles Aránguiz became the latest addition to an impressive, dynamic, and exciting looking squad.
Fresh from Chile’s triumph in this summer’s Copa America, Arángiuz joins his new club hoping to follow on from his impressive performance in the final, during which he scored one of the penalties in the shoot-out which sealed his side’s victory against Argentina.
The Chilean will fit seamlessly into a hard-working side who rely on the pace of their attacks, and the franticity of their defence to overwhelm their opposition.
Bayer manager Roger Schmidt has been lauded for the style of football he’s brought to the club, and they finished 4th in the league during his first year as manager. Going into a new season they’ll need to be at their best from the outset. They face a big Champions League play-off tie against Lazio just three days after their Bundesliga opener against Hoffenheim.
Schmidt likes his team to win the ball back high up the pitch, and attack quickly once they have it. A 4-2-3-1 formation can become distorted as players move from their positions to press, and the side often resembles a 4-2-4.
Defence is almost their primary method of attack, as once they win the ball back their forwards are set, and ready to shoot early. It’s counter attacking from the attacking third, rather than allowing teams onto them and countering from inside their own half.
If an opposition manages to beat the high press, then Leverkusen can be exposed. It’s for this reason that they tend to go with defenders who can cover the ground more quickly than a traditional centre back.
The arrivals of teenager Jonathan Tah, and Greek powerhouse Kyriakos Papadopoulos add some weight to this idea, whilst current centre backs Ömer Toprak, and teenage Croatian Tin Jedvaj, can hardly be described as sluggish.
Moving further forward, you begin to see the Bayer blueprint reflected in its personnel. It’s in this midfield, as dynamic as it is technically gifted, where Charles Aránguiz will really fit in.
Alongside him in midfield will be the likes of captain Lars Bender and Christoph Kramer, the latter returning to the club, world cup winners medal in hand, after four years out on loan. These players will be the engine room of the side as they help maintain a defensive shape, and recycle the ball quickly towards the attacking midfielders.
Attacking midfield is where the entertainment value kicks in. Heung-Min Son, Hakan Çalhanoğlu, Julian Brandt, and Karim Bellarabi, to name a few, are all players who fit Schmidt’s idea of midfielders becoming attackers should the need arise.
Whether they be an attacking playmaker like the 21-year-old Turkish international Çalhanoğlu, an incisive winger like Son, or wide forward such as the exciting Bellarabi and the 19-year-old prodigy Brandt; each player will be required to support their striker in various ways.
Their striker, more often than not, will be the 31-year-old German, Stefan Kießling. Bayer will hope that opposites attract in the final third of the pitch, as the 6ft3in (191cm tall) centre forward feeds on crosses and scraps provided by the busy midfielders around him.
Despite being the main focal point in attack, he’ll often end up dropping deeper than his other attacking team-mates, as he links up the play between them.
In a team of pace, trickery, flair, and tactical enjoyment, Kießling, with his slightly different set of strengths, could well be the most interesting facet. He’s tall and good in the air, but he’s no slouch with the ball at his feet and possesses a powerful shot.
On top of this, he knows the club better than most, as this will be his tenth season at Bayer. He’s second only to Ulf Kirsten in their all time scorers list, with 122 goals.
So, Aránguiz is joining a team which has similar traits to those of the Chile side which won the 2015 Copa: intense pressing and incisive attacking, all executed by a set of players on the cusp of greatness.
There hasn’t even been a mention for the likes of the promising Brazilian left-back Wendell, new signing Admir Mehmedi, or the impressive young goalkeeper Bernd Leno, which shows the depth of talent they have in the squad.
Bayer Leverkusen might not challenge Bayern Munich for the title, and they may not even replicate last season’s success, but whatever they do, watching them do it could be some of the best entertainment football fans get during the coming season.