While Timo Werner was silenced and Kai Havertz subbed off after a Chelsea teammate was sent off, RB Leipzig and Bayer Leverkusen started life in the Bundesliga without their former star players.
Aided by a Mainz side perhaps weighed down by their bold gold away kits, RB Leipzig showed no signs of missing their former number 11 in a comfortable 3-1 win.
In all honesty though, they were never going to. While whatever RB Leipzig are remains a debate, on the field Julian Nagelsmann’s teams have always been about the way the collective works rather than relying on the quality of individuals. With Werner gone, RB were free to be a team without an attacking spearhead. Instead, the relentless pressing machine took center stage.
Of course, sometimes football clubs deal with the departure of a star by spending lots of money. Leipzig are reportedly on the verge of doing just that to bring 24-year-old Norwegian striker Alexander Sörloth to the club.
Against Mainz, Yussuf Poulsen and Emil Forsberg reminded everyone that they almost don’t need to. Leipzig’s attack is already in very capable hands.
Whether that will remain true over the course of a season will be the deciding factor when assessing Werner’s absence, but Leipzig’s start showed that so far it was a case of no Werner, no problem.
Wirtz impressed at the end of last season scoring against Bayern
Replacing a game-changer
Whether Leverkusen will be alright without Havertz is perhaps a greater concern.
It is far too early to suggest that 17-year-old Florian Wirtz will be Havertz’s successor, but there is no denying he is being given the chance to be.
In Leverkusen’s opening-day draw in Wolfsburg, however, Havertz’s absence was felt. Peter Bosz’s side stuttered in attack and in the end were fortunate to get a point.
Wirtz started in midfield, playing in the role Havertz occupied more often in his early days. His hesitation cost him a goal in the first half, and just after the hour mark he couldn’t thread the right pass as a promising counterattack broke down.
Wirtz remains a work in progress, but this is the season Leverkusen hope to see that progress in action.
Losing such players is a blow to the Bundesliga, but so steady has the flow of players from Germany to England been in recent years that it is no longer a surprise or a problem.
RB Leipzig were as excellent as ever without Werner and Leverkusen have already started to develop their next midfield maestro. That’s just the nature of Germany’s top flight. By the end of this season, another pair of young highly-touted youngsters will be bursting through, delighting fans domestically and intriguing teams from abroad.