bundesliga

Leon Bailey and Moussa Diaby leading Bayer Leverkusen's wing wonders

With Leon Bailey and Moussa Diaby at their scintillating best and the likes of Demarai Gray, Karim Bellarabi and Jeremie Frimpong in reserve, bundesliga.com looks at whether Bayer Leverkusen have quietly assembled the league's best stable of wingers.

Pace, directness, a world-class pairing and plenty in reserve, the Leverkusen wide men could prove the difference in ensuring UEFA Champions League football returns to the BayArena next season...

Bailey back to his best

While the Bayern Munich wide men of Kingsley Coman, Serge Gnabry, Leroy Sane and Douglas Costa are widely regarded as the best in the business, Die Werkself’s quintet of wingers can give their counterparts a run for their money.

Watch: Leon Bailey wins December's Goal of the Month

In fact, from that Bayern group it is only Coman (nine) that has more assists than Bailey or Diaby (both six), while only Gnabry can say he's scored as many times in the league as Bailey (both 5). The Jamaican had a breakout season in 2017/18, chalking up nine goals and laying on six assists in a year that put the world on notice. His subsequent two campaigns, however, were fairly underwhelming by comparison and by the end of 2019/20 Bailey made as many substitute appearances as starts (11) as Bosz tended to prefer other alternatives.

Despite two fairly middling seasons, you would have been foolish to have doubted the 23-year-old's obvious talent, and any naysayers have been firmly put in their place - or indeed lifted off their seats - this term.

Bailey has already equalled that single-season best for assists in 2017/18 after just 20 games played, and the Leverkusen winger is one goal away from his best goalscoring return in all competitions of 12, again secured in 17/18.

Leon Bailey has recaptured his best form this season and is on course to better his single season Bundesliga peak from 2017/18. - Lukas Schulze/Bundesliga/Bundesliga Collection via Getty Images

It's little wonder then that Bosz has acknowledged Bailey's improvement, saying in October: "Leon had it very hard, last year and early this season. But I see that he gets better with every game - physically, but also in terms of his football. When you see how much he runs, but also how much he sprints and his football playing quality, that's always going up… he improves every game."

Devastating Diaby

Bosz is right to point out how much Bailey runs as testament to his improvement, and the numbers show how he and Diaby make for a potent pairing. Only Wolfsburg's Ridle Baku (62) has sprinted more times than Diaby (618) and Bailey (567) across the entire league after 20 matchdays. Diaby and Bailey have also both been on the ball a whopping 859 and 873 times respectively and, considering the former's top speed of 22 m/ph - a number only bettered by eight Bundesliga players - and the latter's of 21.7 m/ph, it makes for a daunting prospect for defenders to come up against the flying pair at their relentless full tilt.

When you then factor in the fact that just Filip Kostic (89) and Angelino (72) have put more crosses into the box than Diaby (71), it's no surprise the former Paris Saint-German winger has contributed six Bundesliga assists as well as three goals of his own.

Diaby's influence from the Leverkusen left is growing, as exhibited in his performances against Borussia Dortmund and Stuttgart in recent weeks. They are Leverkusen's only two wins between Matchdays 13 and 20, and both owe to significant contributions from their France U21 international. Diaby scored one and laid on the other in the 2-1 win over Dortmund, while he set-up two more as Leverkusen romped past Stuttgart 5-2, including teeing up Bailey for the third as the wingers took the game by the scruff of the neck.

The supporting cast

Winter signing Gray marked his Leverkusen debut with a goal in that victory over VfB and early signs suggest that the 24-year-old Englishman will fit right in at the BayArena. Like Diaby and Bailey, he is quick out the blocks and possibly even more direct in his running than the pair of them. As Gray said himself, it was the ideal way for him and his new employers to introduce themselves to each other.

Watch: Demarai Gray scores on his debut to wrap up big Leverkusen victory

"A perfect start, everything I ever wanted," said Gray after his 16-minute cameo. "Most importantly, it's a good result for the team. Had a bit of a bad patch at the moment but it's a good way to bounce back and hopefully, we continue this form."

There's no reason why they shouldn't, especially when you also add Bellarabi to the mix. Bellarabi missed the win over Stuttgart with a hamstring injury and is expected to be out of action for at least the Matchday 21 visit of Mainz. The Germany international's eventual return will bring with it 117 Bundesliga appearances, adding both experience and nous to an otherwise youthful and incredibly exciting deck of wingers in Leverkusen.

Further enhancing that excitement is the potential for another new import from the UK - Frimpong - who can also operate further forward than his usual full-back spot. "I don't care whether I play right-winger or right-back,” the former Celtic man told The Athletic. And his searing pace and desire to get to the byline seems like a perfect fit when you consider Bosz is getting the best out of Bailey and Diaby doing just that.