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How Xabi Alonso Turned Bayer Leverkusen Into Bundesliga Champions? A Deep Dive Analysis

Xabi Alonso exemplified patience throughout his journey. Even before assuming a coaching role with Real Madrid’s Under-14s post-retirement, he had received offers for senior positions elsewhere.

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Soccer Football – Bundesliga – Bayer Leverkusen v Bayern Munich – BayArena, Leverkusen, Germany – February 10, 2024 Bayer Leverkusen coach Xabi Alonso celebrates with Borja Iglesias after the match REUTERS/Thilo Schmuelgen/ File Photo

Despite finding fulfillment in that role, he harbored a deeper aspiration for a coaching career, yet remained grounded, committed to continuous learning and waiting for the right moment.

  1. How long does Xabi Alonso have a contract with Bayer Leverkusen?

    Bayer Leverkusen extended deal with coach Xabi Alonso to 2026 despite strong interests from Liverpool.

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From ‘Sanse’ to Champions: Xabi Alonso’s Journey to Bundesliga Glory

Leading Real Sociedad’s B team, ‘Sanse’, for an impressive three-year tenure, Alonso defied expectations for a former professional of his stature, with many peers already advancing higher in the football hierarchy. Under his guidance, Sanse reclaimed a spot in the Segunda División for the first time since the early 1960s. Despite tempting offers, including one from Borussia Mönchengladbach, Alonso chose to stay, demonstrating his dedication by extending his contract.

However, in May 2022, with Sanse facing relegation back to the third tier and Imanol Alguacil blocking his path to the senior team, Alonso departed, leaving behind an enhanced reputation despite the setback. Patiently awaiting his next opportunity, he seized the chance in October when Bayer Leverkusen sought a coach to steer them clear of a relegation battle. His subsequent success has been nothing short of remarkable.

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NPUKNZUEPBO4PP3B4ZAVWIQYWU How Xabi Alonso Turned Bayer Leverkusen Into Bundesliga Champions? A Deep Dive Analysis
Soccer Football – Bundesliga – Bayer Leverkusen v Werder Bremen – BayArena, Leverkusen, Germany – April 14, 2024 General view of Bayer Leverkusen fans celebrating during a pitch invasion after winning the Bundesliga REUTERS/Wolfgang Rattay

The 5-0 victory over Werder Bremen at the BayArena on Sunday marked a historic moment. Alonso became the first manager or coach to clinch the Bundesliga title with Bayer Leverkusen, a team previously dubbed ‘Neverkusen’ or ‘Vizekusen’ (German for “second-kusen”) due to their history of finishing as runners-up. This season, the Werkself effortlessly thwarted Bayern Munich’s challenge.

While other accolades may await, the Bundesliga crown stands as the most significant, ending Bayern’s 11-season monopoly on the Meisterschale and securing Leverkusen’s first major trophy since the 1992-93 DFB-Pokal.

Alonso’s Aces: Key Players Driving Leverkusen’s Success

Alonso has rightfully earned praise for the remarkable turnaround he has orchestrated at Bayer Leverkusen since assuming charge in October 2022, with the club languishing in the relegation zone. However, his success has been greatly aided by the exceptional performances of his players, several of whom have been particularly influential.

Granit Xhaka

Granit Xhaka stands out as a pivotal figure in Leverkusen’s transformation into a possession-oriented team. Despite his impressive performances towards the end of his tenure at Arsenal, his resurgence in Germany has surprised many. Xhaka’s unparalleled ability to dictate play is evident in his staggering 2,796 successful passes, surpassing any other player in the top five European leagues this season. Notably, his pass completion rate of 92.2% is surpassed by only six Bundesliga players, despite attempting over 1,000 more passes than all of them.

Granit Xhakas Final Third Entries Image Credits Opta Analyst How Xabi Alonso Turned Bayer Leverkusen Into Bundesliga Champions? A Deep Dive Analysis
Granit Xhaka’s Final Third Entries, Image Credits- Opta Analyst

Moreover, Xhaka’s distribution is not merely about quantity; his 409 passes into the final third are unmatched by any outfield player in Europe’s top five leagues, demonstrating his ability to provide purposeful contributions. Additionally, his involvement in open-play shot-ending sequences (206) and chances created/secondary chances created (93) is second only to one player in the Bundesliga. Despite not registering any assists directly, Xhaka’s 12 secondary assists significantly contribute to Leverkusen’s attacking prowess.

Florian Wirtz

Florian Wirtz emerges as another key player, surpassing Xhaka in shot-ending sequence involvements and chances created + secondary chances created (227 and 107, respectively). The immensely talented 20-year-old attacking midfielder, despite missing a portion of the 2022-23 season due to injury, has elevated his performance levels in the current campaign, solidifying his status as one of the most promising young talents globally.

While Wirtz’s skill set extends beyond creativity to include dribbling, carrying the ball, and linking play, his ability to create chances is undeniable. Leading the league in chances created (69) and open-play assists (10), Wirtz also poses a significant goal threat, with his recent hat-trick bringing his tally to 11 goals for the season.

Florian Wirtzs Goal Involvements Image Credits Opta Anlayst How Xabi Alonso Turned Bayer Leverkusen Into Bundesliga Champions? A Deep Dive Analysis
Florian Wirtz’s Goal Involvements, Image Credits- Opta Anlayst

Although a few of Wirtz’s assists may have been fortuitous, his league-leading expected assists (9.0 xA) underscore his immense value to the team. Furthermore, his partnership with Victor Boniface in the early stages of the season was instrumental, with the duo combining for seven Bundesliga goals before Boniface’s injury sidelined him until April.

Despite Boniface’s absence, Leverkusen’s continued success speaks volumes about the collective strength and excellence of Alonso’s squad. Players like Alex Grimaldo, Jeremie Frimpong, Jonathan Tah, and Jonas Hofmann have all made significant contributions, particularly the former pair, who have excelled as wing-backs, contributing a combined total of 17 goals this season.

As the summer transfer window approaches, Leverkusen fans hope that the majority of their key players will follow Alonso’s example and remain committed to the club, ensuring continuity and further success for German football.

Mastering Evolution: Xabi Alonso’s Tactical Revolution at Bayer Leverkusen

Alonso’s strategic acumen shines brightly in Leverkusen’s remarkable evolution under his stewardship, particularly evident in the stark contrast between their playing styles in the 2022-23 and 2023-24 seasons.

Bayer Leverkusens Zones of Control in Bundesliga 2022 23 Image Credits Opta Analyst How Xabi Alonso Turned Bayer Leverkusen Into Bundesliga Champions? A Deep Dive Analysis
Bayer Leverkusen’s Zones of Control in Bundesliga 2022-23, Image Credits- Opta Analyst

Upon his arrival, Alonso established a pragmatic approach, prioritizing effective counter-attacks, utilizing the pace of players like Moussa Diaby. Despite maintaining a respectable average possession of 51.8% in 2022-23, Leverkusen displayed a willingness to cede possession and capitalize on transition opportunities.

However, the 2023-24 campaign witnessed a significant shift towards dominance and control, with Leverkusen’s possession soaring to 63.1%. This marked increase places them among the elite possession-based teams in Europe, alongside the likes of Barcelona, Paris Saint-Germain, and Manchester City.

Alonso’s influence extends beyond mere possession statistics. Leverkusen’s tactical flexibility is evident in their adeptness at manipulating possession and pressing higher up the pitch. Despite their enhanced possession, they have maintained efficiency in pressing, resulting in a remarkable increase in turnovers, contributing to their effectiveness both in attack and defense.

Team Style Comparison of the German Bundesliga Image Credits Opta Analyst How Xabi Alonso Turned Bayer Leverkusen Into Bundesliga Champions? A Deep Dive Analysis
Team Style Comparison of the German Bundesliga, Image Credits- Opta Analyst

Offensively, Leverkusen has been potent, ranking second only to Bayern Munich in goals scored. Defensively, they have been resolute, conceding significantly fewer goals than any other team in the Bundesliga, boasting defensive statistics that rival top European sides like Inter Milan and Real Madrid.

Leverkusen’s Bundesliga triumph is a testament to Alonso’s patience, tactical prowess, and the collective effort of his squad. Their success marks a significant shift in the Bundesliga landscape after years of Bayern Munich’s dominance, with Alonso’s patient approach yielding handsome rewards and hinting at even greater achievements in the future.

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