Is the 2020/21 Leon Bailey the best ever version of the Bayer Leverkusen winger?
With four goals and five assists in his first 12 games of the Bundesliga season, Bayer Leverkusen winger Leon Bailey is currently enjoying some of the best form of his career.
Add to that the five goals and two assists he has supplied in just six UEFA Europa League group outings, and the Jamaican's contribution to an outstanding season so far for Leverkusen is considerable.
bundesliga.com was keen to answer the question: what is behind his form explosion?
Bailey's previous best campaign was just his second in the Bundesliga, when he scored nine and set up a further six for Die Werkself in 2017/18. That return came from his most single-season appearances since arriving from Belgian club KRC Genk, and there is plenty to suggest he will smash his own records if he reaches the same number of 30 games this term.
The 23-year-old has come into his own, arguably emerging from the shadows of Kai Havertz following his summer transfer to Chelsea, and showing a willingness to become Bayer's stand-out performer.
"Leon's talent is immense," said Leverkusen coach Peter Bosz after the winger's brace against Hoffenheim lifted his side to the top of the Bundesliga on Matchday 11. "He's now managing to show this, and he's paying it all back to us."
A humble Bailey insists it is not only down to him, however. His partnership with the 17-year-old Florian Wirtz has formed one of the most exciting duos in the Bundesliga, and the whole team are benefitting.
"Our mentality has changed," Bailey said. "We're much hungrier than we were last season. Anything's possible for us now; we're in good shape, playing well and there are no limits."
Not only has something clicked psychologically for Bailey.
"I'm feeling great physically," Bailey told the Bild am Sonntag. "I had to deal with numerous injuries last season and, as a result, I never really got into a rhythm and maybe I wanted too much. Now I'm doing all I can to avoid getting injured."
It's a combination of the two which has Bailey producing some of his best form, and doing so consistently.
"Nobody ever doubted that he had the talent," explained Bosz, who is as happy as anybody to see the newfound confidence in Bailey's game. "I think he wouldn't have scored such a goal as this last season," he added, referring to his jaw-dropping strike against Hoffenheim.
Watch: Leon Bailey's two strikes against Hoffenheim
That came from a creative short corner on the right, with Bailey creating the angle for a stunning curled effort into the far corner. Cutting inside, Robben-esque, from the right has become Bailey's new party piece, and a shift onto the opposite wing this season could be one of the main reasons why he is flourishing.
"It's doing him a lot of good, as a natural left-footer out on the right," noted Leverkusen's sporting director Simon Rolfes.
It is also doing him good that, in the absence of Havertz, Leverkusen's game has been channelled much more down the wings this year than it was previously. Moussa Diaby is also well on his way to posting his best single-season statistics on the other wing, for instance.
And with Wirtz maturing at a rate of knots previously seen only from Bailey's friend and compatriot Usain Bolt, Leverkusen's expectations are justifiably high heading into the new year, with the prospect of finally bringing an end to the curse of Neverkusen in 2021.
Bailey, Diaby and Leverkusen's wing wonders
bundesliga.com looks at whether Bayer Leverkusen have quietly assembled the league’s best stable of wingers.
Leon Bailey: "I want to entertain like Ronaldinho did"
Leverkusen's Leon Bailey sits down with bundesliga.com to discuss his form in 2020/21, wanting to entertain audiences like Ronaldinho and much more...
"Bailey getting better every game" - Leverkusen coach Bosz
Bosz has praised Bailey for his start to 2020/21, helping his side to three wins in a row with an assist in each game.