Xabi Alonso has Bayer Leverkusen reaching new heights, and the club is a candidate, if not the favorite, to dethrone Bayern Munich’s monopoly of dominance. After 14 games in the Bundesliga, Bayer Leverkusen is unbeaten with 11 wins and three draws. Xabi Alonso’s side is the last unbeaten team in the biggest five leagues by traditional standards. However, it is worth including PSV Eindhoven in that list. The Dutch club has a perfect 45 points out of 15 games in the Eredivisie.

However, PSV Eindhoven is always a contender in the Eredivisie. The Boeren have won the Dutch top flight 24 times, which is the second most in history. Baye Leverkusen has a great history in its own right. It won the UEFA Cup in 1987/88 and was the runner-up in the UEFA Champions League in 2001/02. Zinedine Zidane’s wonder goal in that final prevented Bayer Leverkusen from being the fourth German club to win the European Cup. Likewise, Bayer Leverkusen has finished runner-up five times in the Bundesliga. That is the most by any team that has never won the competition.

What Xabi Alonso is doing may break that long wait for the Meisterschale in Leverkusen. He is not just scraping by with results, either. Bayer Leverkusen is defeating teams at a similar clip to Bayern Munich. When the two played earlier in the campaign in Munich, a stoppage-time penalty from Exequiel Palacios took two points from Bayern and gave one to Leverkusen. That game could prove critical in Bayer Leverkusen’s bid to win the Bundesliga.

Xabi Alonso has Bayer Leverkusen playing like a Bundesliga contender

When the Spaniard took over last season, Bayer Leverkusen was in a spin. He not only propelled the club back into the Europa League spots. He set the foundation. Then, this summer, he tacked on several key players to build a squad that fits his possession-heavy play style.

Bayer Leverkusen averages 57% of the ball in Bundesliga play. That is second to only Bayern Munich. It is no mistake that Granit Xhaka has started each Bundesliga game with Bayer Leverkusen this season. He has been instrumental in controlling the tempo of the club. However, that ‘tempo’ is not necessarily the slow and methodical style Xabi Alonso practiced with the Spanish national team.

Bayer Leverkusen has been electric on the counter-attack. Much of that has come from the use of wide defenders. Alejandro Grimaldo and Jeremie Frimpong, both traditional defenders, are in the top five Bayer Leverkusen goal-scorers this season. They blaze forward as wing-backs in Alonso’s 3-5-2 formation. It affords freedom to those players and expands defenses.

With the room created in the middle so opposition can deal with the wing players, Bayer Leverkusen talisman in the middle can thrive. The 20-year-old sensation, Florian Wirtz, is the catalyst for so many of Bayer Leverkusen’s moves forward. The Young Player of the Year in the 2022/23 Europa League is free to be creative in the Bayer Leverkusen squad.

“You have to give such special players the possibility to do special things on the pitch,” Xabi Alonso said of his midfield star.

That includes letting Wirtz dribble, shoot from range and make key passes. In 21 appearances in Xabi Alonso’s side this campaign, Wirtz has seven goals and 10 assists. The goal in the second half against Stuttgart kept the unbeaten run alive for Bayer Leverkusen this season.

Performances in key games

Over the last several matchday, Xabi Alonso and Bayer Leverkusen have faced several of their toughest opponents in the Bundesliga. Borussia Dortmund, Stuttgart and TSG Hoffenheim could not figure out Xabi Alonso. Has it been perfect? No, Leverkusen dropped points against Dortmund at home and in their draw against Stuttgart. However, in its wins, Bayer Leverkusen is averaging a margin of victory of almost 2.5. Not only is it winning games, but it is also winning them comfortably.

With two home games before the Bundesliga takes a winter break, Xabi Alonso is getting to a point where every point is crucial. Bayern Munich may have dropped points with a big loss at Eintracht Frankfurt at the weekend. Yet, the two consecutive draws from Bayer Leverkusen keep the race for the title close. There is already gap between the title challengers, Leverkusen and Bayern, and the rest of the league. The upcoming game against Eintracht Frankfurt this coming weekend could be of massive importance. Then, in early February, Leverkusen’s game at home against Bayern could ultimately be a title-deciding game for Xabi Alonso in the Bundesliga. Success there could lead him to join one of the other spots, like Real Madrid or Liverpool, that want the manager.