Bayer Leverkusen are fifth in Bundesliga, two points off a Champions League spot. Leverkusen have not always been convincing this season but if they are not far off a 4th place, this is thanks to their best players Kai Havertz, Jonathan Tah and Kevin Volland.
About the German international, he is a 27 years old striker and will enter the last year of his contract this summer. Arsenal have already been linked with him last winter and Volland might have new suitors this upcoming summer.
Indeed, Volland has scored 12 goals and assisted eight more in all competitions this season. He has scored 21% of Leverkusen’s goals in the league and is a crucial part of the German side. He has never left Germany as he has played for Hoffenheim before playing for Bayer 04. Under Peter Bosz this season, he had to be even more effective than ever before.
This tactical analysis in the form of a scout report will breakdown what makes him crucial for Leverkusen’s tactics and why he deserves a move away from his current club this summer.
The German is one of the most versatile strikers you can find. He is able to play everywhere on the front three and can even play as a second striker. According to Transfermarkt, Volland has played upwards to 100 games on the wings in Bundesliga and the same amount as a striker. This is a very impressive figure for someone labelled as a centre-forward.
It allows his coach to adapt his tactics according to the opponent and allows the side to be less predictable. Indeed, we can notice that Lucas Alario was picked for games where Leverkusen had to play against more physical defenders. However, Volland was still playing but on the left or alongside Alario as a partnership up front.
We can also add that this season, Volland has played 815 minutes as a left-winger and 1855 minutes as a centre-forward. However, on the left, he only has three league goal contributions whereas he has 11 goal contributions (0.53 per 90) upfront. He is much more efficient when played as a striker.
Nevertheless, as seen below, Volland likes to drift wide when he plays up front. This is a highly valuable trait for a centre-forward. He stretches the opponent’s defensive line and creates space to run into for his teammates.
All in all, Volland’s versatility makes him a very useful asset to Leverkusen. He is able to change sides within games and allows his teammates to occupy positions he vacated. Moving the opposition from right to left opens passing lanes, tires defenders but also creates goalscoring opportunities to your teammates. This is what Volland does, this is why he is useful to his side.
But his versatility isn’t the only asset who makes him useful to Leverkusen. His pressing ability is another one.
His pressing ability
The German side is the second best pressing team in the league with a PPDA figure (Passes Allowed per Defensive Actions) of 7.72. Peter Bosz, their head coach, likes to have the control of the ball and recover it as quickly as possible once they have lost possession.
Their press relies on being compact throughout the game to press as a unit but they also need to orientate their opponents to wide areas in order to activate pressing traps. This is where Volland is crucial. As a striker, he has to be the first defender when Leverkusen press and his movement is needed for Leverkusen to recover the ball within a few seconds.
Volland is always able to close passing lanes infield in order to orientate his opponent to progress through wide areas. There, Volland’s teammates will be able to activate pressing traps to force the opposition to make a mistake and lose the ball.
Compared to the other forwards in his team, Volland applies pressure on his opponents most frequently per 90 minutes according to fbref.com. This proves he initiates the press very well.
All in all, Volland’s pressing ability is another valuable asset for the German side. Once they have lost the ball, they are able to recover the ball high up the pitch and sustain pressure in their opponent’s half. The 27 years old striker plays a big part in this effectiveness.
Volland’s ability to create space
We can find any kind of strikers nowadays. It depends on how the sides they play in operate. They still have to score goals and create but most strikers also need to give time and space to their teammates. This is what makes them more valuable than other players and Volland is this kind of striker.
Volland can create gaps between his opponent’s lines. Thanks to this, his teammates will be able to go into space to receive the ball and sustain pressure or take their chance at goal. This could be achieved by either running the channels, holding up the ball or drawing players out.
Sometimes, a striker has the ability to do more than one thing when he completes this role. This is the case for Volland. The German forward plays in a possession-based side under Peter Bosz. Leverkusen have 60% of the ball this season but this is sterile. They don’t necessarily gain territory thanks to their possession of the ball and due to this, Volland only touches the ball 38 times a game on average.
Because of the low amount of touches he is allowed, the forward has to be even more effective and has to play in a smart way in order to create chances for him and his teammates. And he has done it quite well so far.
Volland’s best asset is his movement. He is able to drop deep and draw players out in order to set up runners. This movement creates space to run in behind for Leverkusen forwards but Volland is also able to play the ball into this said space to his teammates who make the run. Below, you can see him drop deep, dribble his way out of the press and play the ball between two Bayern Munich defenders to his left-winger.
His abilities to play with his back to the goal is also used by Peter Bosz. On throw-ins, he drops deep to drag a centre-back out of position. The use of throw-ins to create chances has been a pattern from Leverkusen throughout the season and a very underrated side of the game for many teams.
Most of the time, the space created behind the centre-back thanks to Volland is occupied by the Leverkusen left-winger who has all the space to control the ball and take his chance at goal.
As seen below, Volland draws two players out when he drops deep. It opens space in behind for his teammate who takes the ball and drives forward. On the underloaded side, there will be another solution for the new ball-carrier who can either make a shot or pass it to his teammate on the underloaded side.
But the 27 years old is more than just a ground passer of the ball when it comes to exploiting space. Indeed, when his teammates run into the vacated space, the German forward is also able to play a through ball to reach to them.
As you can see below, within a couple of seconds, he controls the ball, sees Diaby making the run and plays the ball over the top to the French winger who scores. Not many strikers have this ability and vision.
Volland’s ability to drop deep, create space and play for others is a valuable asset for Leverkusen. Nonetheless, this isn’t his only one when it comes to stretch his opponent’s defensive line.
Indeed, the 27 years old is also able to run the channels to receive the ball at feet and finish, most frequently in the channel between the full-back and the centre-back. There is more space to exploit there because the full-back can let a big gap with his centre-back when he is dragged to wide areas.
Yet, you don’t necessarily need to exploit space to run the channels. Indeed, you can run the channels in order to create space. By running beyond the last line, your opponent will trackback. If they don’t do it as a unit, there will be space to exploit in between their lines to your teammates and your side will be able to sustain pressure in the opponent’s half.
Below, you can see Volland running the channels. He has seen the space between two defenders and made the run. He receives the ball into feet, uses his physicality and scores an important goal against Borussia Dortmund.
Finally, a striker can also win aerial duels. And Volland does it quite well. He is 179 cm (5’10) tall and wins 1.12 aerial duels per 90 with a 40.4% success rate. This is a high figure for a striker. Winning aerial duels can be a very useful asset for a side and even more for Leverkusen.
Indeed, when they don’t find solutions in the middle of the pitch, Leverkusen center-backs are instructed to play long on their forwards in order to progress the play or to create something out of nothing by winning second balls.
When you win second balls in the final third, it is likely that you have won the aerial duel prior to this and an opponent is out of play. Thus you can be in a 1v1 situation against a defender or even against the goalkeeper.
However, to win these second balls, it’s always better to win the aerial duel. Indeed, when you win your duels, it’s likely that you won’t suffer it thus being able to reach your target who runs in-depth to receive the ball. That’s why Volland’s aerial ability is very useful to Leverkusen.
Below, Volland doesn’t win the duel but attracts a centre-back deep to let Bender win the aerial duel. Havertz wins the second ball and score. There, you can see how useful the 27 years old can be in a different manner and how crucial winning aerial duels in the final third can be to a team.
All in all, Kevin Volland has three to four very important traits on the offensive side of the game. That makes him a multi-dimensional asset for his team as he can create space and time for his teammates. He is always an issue for defenders and he is the kind of profile a manager wants in his side.
We have previously seen that Volland is able to run the channels in order to put himself into good goalscoring positions. This is highlighted by his 3.36 shots per 90. However, he only has nine league goals this season. The main reason for this poor goalscoring ratio is because of his finishing.
Indeed, the German striker only has a 15% goal conversion rate. This puts him in the last tier of strikers in Europe’s top five leagues in terms of goal conversion rate. Although he is effective in many other areas, this lack of above-average finishing abilities is something Volland has to improve to become more complete.
However, Volland’s best asset when it comes to finishing is his two-footedness. He is able to finish with both feet and without showing a difference when it comes to his weak foot. Indeed, Volland has scored 25% of his goals with his right foot.
Below, you can see Volland scoring a goal with his right despite taking the ball on the half volley in front of two defenders. This is the sign of very high confidence towards his weak foot.
When it comes to finishing, Volland can struggle sometimes. However, he can use both feet and his movement allows him to have a high amount of chances. Thanks to this, he still has to be taken seriously when it comes to scoring goals. He is 19th in terms of goalscoring contributions this season among more than 100 strikers in Europe’s top five leagues.
As we have seen in this analysis, Kevin Volland is a very complete striker. He can score, he can create, he can play off the ball and is very effective with the low amount of balls he has. He is also playing in a very physical league and is accustomed to all sorts of playing style. This is a valuable trait for a potential suitor.
He has been a consistent player throughout his career and this could be the time to get his dream move to one of Europe’s best clubs. The German international has already proved his worth and he just entered his prime. With one year left on his contract, he won’t cost much either.
However, he is not amongst elite strikers and doesn’t warrant a move to an elite side. He will have to find a suitor like Leipzig, Inter Milan, Lazio or even Arsenal. The kind of team who needs his profiles but doesn’t have the power to attract the best strikers in the world.