Bayer Leverkusen’s acquisition of Nigerian Victor Boniface in the summer was just one of their inspired signings with the striker becoming an instant success scoring ten goals and contributing eight assists. The 23-year-old will however miss a host of games at the start of the Rückrunde as he represents his country at the African Cup of Nations. How much he is missed depends very much on how well Patrik Schick does as he returns to full fitness following a lengthy injury layoff. Can the Czech forward fill Boniface’s scoring boots?
The Werkself’s success this season has been based around a largely settled first-choice XI with trainer Xabi Alonso more than content to avoid rotation with his side going unbeaten across all competitions. His hand however will be forced in January when the Bundesliga resumes after the winter break with four players away on international duty in the Ivory Coast.
The absence of Leverkusen’s main striker however could and should be compensated by the return to first-team action of Patrik Schick, who two seasons ago was banging in the goals with the same regularity as that of Victor Boniface this year. An adductor injury kept the 27-year-old out of action for almost the entire of last season and most of the start of this current one. He is now back and ready to resume his career just at the right time to deputise for Victor Boniface.
Before his injury nightmare Schick took the league by storm in the 2021-22 season scoring 24 league goals in 27 appearances. He has been eased back slowly this season with his first goal coming against BK Häken in the Europa League. He also scored in Leverkusen’s Pokal win over Paderborn before adding another against Molde in Europe.
Matchday 16 saw him given a surprise start against Bochum as Xabi Alonso looked to test out some fringe players and the Czech striker certainly repaid the faith. His first half hat trick put the result beyond doubt and sent out the message that he could more than adequately fill the main striking role in the absence of Victor Boniface.
He is different in style to the Nigerian, but when the ball hits the back of the net, how it got there matters little. The club are convinced he can get back to his best and do a job for them during the African Cup of Nations and beyond.
“Patrik is absolutely ready for the coming weeks,” sporting director Simon Rolfes stressed in an interview with Kicker recently. “Just before Christmas he played several games in quick succession and started against Molde and Bochum. He is preparing well. We have ten days of training and a friendly (against FC Venice on Sunday). He will use this time and be able to complete the upcoming schedule.
“Patrik has shown again recently that he is one of the top strikers in the Bundesliga. He will become even more consistent in the near future. “Both Victor and Patrik are powerful goal scorers who can also develop and actively participate in our attacking game,” he added.
“Because of their physical attributes, they naturally play differently. ‘Boni’ is more powerful and dribbles more, while Patrik has a very high finishing quality in the box and combines a bit more. We’re very happy with both of them.”
Xabi Alonso and the entire Leverkusen fan base will have everything crossed that he can stay fit and healthy and can maintain the form he showed against Bochum and in the Europa League. The club’s transfer dealings in the summer were spot on, but a return to full fitness and form for Schick will feel like a new signing in January.
Losing Victor Boniface is a real blow- but a blow that can hopefully be lessened by a return to full fitness and form of Patrik Schik. God help the Bundesliga defences when they are both available for selection!