Xabi Alonso's Bayer Leverkusen have equalled the record for the best start to a Bundesliga season, set by Pep Guardiola's Bayern Munich class of 2015/16. bundesliga.com compares the two record-breaking outfits...
Bayer Leverkusen, 31 points, +24 goal difference
Leverkusen’s revival after Matchday 8 of the 2022/23 Bundesliga campaign is nothing short of remarkable. Alonso replaced the outgoing Gerardo Seoane with the club sat second-bottom of the table, having managed just one top-flight victory, and ultimately led Die Werkself to a top-six finish and a UEFA Europa League semi-final.
As such, there was plenty of hope and expectation this term, especially following a busy transfer summer that saw the arrivals of Victor Boniface, Jonas Hofmann, Alejandro Grimaldo and Granit Xhaka to the BayArena. However, few would have predicted how impressive they have been thus far.
The schedule gave Leverkusen a difficult opening day fixture against UEFA Champions League outfit and back-to-back DFB Cup winners RB Leipzig and, in hindsight, their 3-2 victory was a sign of things to come. Dominant victories over Borussia Mönchengladbach and Darmstadt followed before a true test of their title credentials at Bayern's Allianz Arena.
Watch: Leverkusen defeat Leipzig on the opening day of the campaign
Alonso’s men went behind twice against the record champions, but showed impressive spirit and resilience amidst a display full of intent as they picked up a 2-2 draw. Incredibly, that was the last game they failed to win in any competition, with the 4-0 triumph over Union Berlin prior to the November international break their 16th in 17 matches this term.
Several players have played key roles in their success so far. With seven goals and five assists amongst the domestic elite, Boniface has been a revelation, combining his power and pace with quick feet and vision, while Hofmann (five goals & five assists) and Florian Wirtz (three goals & five assists) have also set the division alight.
Even full-backs – albeit very offensive ones – Grimaldo (six goals & four assists) and Jeremie Frimpong (three goals & five assists) have made tangible contributions as Leverkusen have scored a club-record 34 strikes after 11 fixtures. Only Bayern, with their historic 42, have hit the back of the net more often, while those two sides are the first in history to net at least twice in each of their opening 11 outings.
It is just not just the goalscorers who have played their part, though. Xhaka has brought with him a wealth of experience which is clearly having an impact on the youthful players around him, while Jonathan Tah, Edmond Tapsoba and Odilon Kossounou have been solid at the heart of a defence that has conceded on just 10 occasions. Wherever you look, there are players performing out of their skin, and Alonso’s philosophy has helped get the best out of them.
The Spaniard has prioritised possession play, illustrated by the fact only Bayern have managed more than their 58 percent average possession per match, while no team in the league has landed a higher proportion of their attempted passes. The results speak for themselves, but in case you were in any doubt of Leverkusen’s offensive efficiency, Bayern (5.1) are again the one team to have needed fewer than Leverkusen's 5.4 shots per goal.
Watch: The story of Xabi Alonso
There is a long way to go this campaign but, even if Leverkusen are unable to keep up this form for the remainder, their opening few months will go down in history.
Bayern Munich, 31 points, +29 goal difference
Guardiola had already secured successive Bundesliga titles – both won at a canter – by the time the 2015/16 campaign came around. Arturo Vidal was the star signing of the summer, with Douglas Costa also making the switch. They were joined by 19-year-old Kingsley Coman and the relatively unknown 20-year-old Joshua Kimmich – both of whom, as we know, would go on to have huge careers.
Bayern set their stall out from the off, defeating Hamburg 5-0 in what was, at the time, the biggest-ever victory in a Bundesliga curtain-raiser – until Die Roten surpassed that with an 8-0 hammering of Schalke in 2020/21. Guardiola’s men dispatched all in front of them over the coming nine matchdays, registering eye-catching 5-1 victories over rivals Borussia Dortmund and Wolfsburg, while Leverkusen were also beaten 3-0.
That Wolfsburg encounter produced an unparalleled nine-minute spell that has gone down in Bundesliga folklore, as Robert Lewandowski scored five goals in nine minutes after coming as a half-time substitute. The Poland international arguably announced himself at Bayern with that quintet of strikes – it may be barely believable now, but the centre-forward made only a moderate impact in his first season at the club (17 goals in 31 league matches during the 2014/15 term).
Lewandowski’s 13 goals across his opening 11 matches of the term were almost matched by Thomas Müller, who struck 10 himself. Coman, Arjen Robben, and even now-Leverkusen boss Alonso himself popped up with goals before a 0-0 draw with Eintracht Frankfurt ended Bayern’s 10-game winning run, but it was at the back where the record champions were particularly supreme, conceding on just four occasions during their almost flawless run.
Watch: Robert Lewandowski's five goals in nine minutes, in FULL!
After those first 11 matchdays, Bayern were already five points clear of Dortmund, and never looked back. They ended up with 88 points, just three adrift of their own record set during the 2012/13 campaign, losing on just two occasions and prevailing on 28.
The 17 goals they shipped across the course of the term remains a league-low, while they managed an impressive 81 of their own, of which Lewandowski plundered 30 and Müller 20. That season - which also produced a DFB Cup final win over Dortmund on penalties - would prove to be Guardiola’s last in Germany, but he left a legacy that, in many ways, changed the face of football in the country.
Considering Bayern’s dominance over the last 11 years, should Leverkusen managed to remain in top spot until the end of May, they may well do the same.
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