Bayer Leverkusen have had a wonderful start to the season. Let us look at why they are the team to watch in the Bundesliga at the moment...
|Leverkusen coach Gerardo Seoane.|
Bayer 04 Leverkusen. 0-4 was exactly the score as Bayer eased past Celtic in the midweek Europa League group stage tie. A Patrik Schick brace and a late penalty from Kerem Demirbay to add to Diaby's opener meant they replicated the result in the Bundesliga versus Arminia.
Frankfurt's triumph at the Allianz Arena means Leverkusen are now level on top with Bayern at 16 points from a possible 21. While Bayern may be ahead on goal difference, Leverkusen have also showed their class with 20 goals in their 7 Bundesliga outings. These amazing Sunday games set up a cracking fixture post the international break, as the record champions visit the BayArena on MD 8.
As Leverkusen send a message to the rest of the league, patience and consistency take center stage. Die Werkself have passed these pastures in recent history, as close as last year, bulldozing through any opposition at the start of last season. A similar tie versus Bayern just before Christmas brought an end to their unbeaten start, and things went south far to easily. Whatever they built in the Hinrunde came tumbling down, in a fashion so destructive that it cost Peter Bosz his job. An optimist's hope of a title challenge ended with a scrappy finish to barely secure Europa League football. Leverkusen may yet again be the most exciting team in the league, but throwing caution to the wind is really important.
What is different from last season?
Everything. If one looks at the scorecards from the past year then it would seem like Leverkusen have started the season just like their previous one. Only someone who has seen them play sees the stark contrast in those performances. Under Peter Bosz and Hannes Wolf, Leverkusen dominated the ball, with an average possession of 59.64%, with Bosz's prime motive being keeping hold of the ball. That kind of dominance on the ball startled oppositions in the Hinrunde, but the lack of adaptability meant that they could not break down oppositions in the Ruckrunde, who sat back and let Bayer have the ball. The inability to see out games, combined with injuries to key players, derailed the Boszball train.
The new coach, Gerardo Seoane brings with him a winning mentality, after winning the Swiss title with Young Boys Bern three times in a row. Over the summer, the Swiss stressed on key areas, where there is visible improvement. He wanted the team to be annoying to play against, and the team have certainly used that instruction across their games this season. They dig in, hold onto leads and press the opposition to get the ball in dangerous areas. The unforgiving pace of players like Frimpong, Diaby and Adli makes every counter attack a threat, especially with the eye for a through ball that Demirbay and wonder boy Florian Wirtz possess. Patrik Schick seems to be past his wobbly start to life at Leverkusen, and with 6 goals is right up there with Haaland and Lewandowski in the scoring charts. Leverkusen are now not only good at keeping the ball, they have become efficient with it. Jonathan Tah, Odilon Kossounou and most recently Piero Hincapie handle 1v1 scenarios with ease while the fullbacks push up and join the attack, giving Leverkusen some blistering speed of play that most oppositions can't match.
The key is keeping these players fit and most of all performing consistently, which feels like the biggest question for anyone eyeing for Bayern's title. A mouth watering tie awaits the Bundesliga viewers at the end of the international break.