That Bayer Leverkusen’s young star Kai Havertz is going to leave the club is a question of when, not if. His loss will of course be felt, but to many the departure of defensive midfield anchor Charles Aránguiz would have been a much harder pill to swallow. Fortunately for the Werkself, he has committed himself to the club for another three-year deal.
With his contract due to expire at the end of the current season, it had been thought the player was keen on moving on to pastures new, with Inter, Fiorentina and even Bayern Munich linked with his signature. Not so. The BayArena will still be his home for the next three years.
You can read anywhere that you care to that 20-year-old Havertz is Leverkusen’s star player and key man, but many keen observers of the Bundesliga will cite Bayer’s Chilean defensive midfielder as the lynchpin of Peter Bosz’s side.
Former CEO Rainer Calmund is one of those observers. “He’s the boss in midfield” he commented after hearing of the contract extension. “A comparison with Kai Havertz would be unfair, because Havertz is much younger, plays more offensively and is more spectacular. But Aránguiz is just as important to the team as Havertz because of his versatility. For me, Aránguiz is world-class,” he added.
The current bosses at the club agree, with Sporting Director Simon Rolfes ecstatic at keeping Aránguiz at the club. “He’s a crucial component of our team and our whole squad,” Rolfes said.
“Charles can read a game, accelerate at the right moment, he radiates an incredible calm and gives his teammates support and security. Extending his contract for another three years is a good sign for a successful future on the pitch and also a signal to the rest of the team.”
The importance of Aránguiz in the Peter Bosz’s set-up at Leverkusen cannot be overstated. The Dutch coach, who is rebuilding his reputation after his Borussia Dortmund nightmare, has the Werkself firmly in the European places and has one eye (or even both) on a Champions League berth.
He has favoured a 4-2-3-1 formation for the majority of matches this season, although he is adaptable enough to sometimes switch to a 4-1-4-1 or even a 4-3-3. In all these formations, the pivot, the fulcrum, the anchor, the metronome, call him what you will has been Aránguiz.
Nicknamed the ‘Prince’ in his native Chile, he stats this season certainly make him royalty amongst Europe’s top defensive midfielders. From Leverkusen’s 25 matches to date, he’s started 15 and made three substitute appearances. He has scored once and provided three assists, but that does not show his true worth.
As you can see from the diagram, if you compare the midfielder to all other players in the same position across Europe’s top five leagues for the current season, his stats stand up to any scrutiny.
He is in the 100th percentile for successful pressures (number of times the squad gained possession within five seconds of him applying pressure). That means he is in the top 1% of similar players across the top five divisions in Europe. The Leverkusen attack get a lot of the plaudits, but the work going on ‘behind the scenes’ from Aránguiz is key.
He ranks 10th in the Bundesliga this season for passes into the final third with 94 (Bayern have five players in the top 10) and has an overall pass completion rate of 86.1%. Playing from his deeper position he also has an impressive stat for progressive distance for his passes being in the 86th percentile (the total distance in yards that his passes travelled towards the opponent’s goal).
This season’s Kicker Sportmagazin player ratings have him as the top-ranked defensive midfielder with an average of 3,00. To put that into perspective Denis Zakaria of Borussia Mönchengladbach is next on 3,05.
The inevitable departure of Kai Havertz will be a blow to Leverkusen, but it will be softened ever so slightly by the fact that their defensive midfield anchor is going to remain. This season the Prince is certainly living up to Rainer Calmund’s claim that he’s the boss in midfield.