Xabi Alonso's new-look Bayer Leverkusen off to a flier


Xabi Alonso's Bayer Leverkusen beat Marseille and West Ham in pre-season, and kicked off their Bundesliga campaign with back-to-back wins versus RB Leipzig and Borussia Mönchengladbach.

Between those summer friendly scalps Die Werkself also thrashed fourth-tier Teutonia Ottensen 8-0 in the first round of the DFB Cup, and some quiet optimism has slowly been building at the BayArena.

Leverkusen had played West Ham off the park two weeks ago, and whilst only a pre-season warm-up game, it's worth remembering the Hammers won the UEFA Conference League last season.

Shrewd acquisitions

Moussa Diaby's sale to Aston Villa this summer allied to Patrik Schick's injury struggles might have left Leverkusen looking short in attack, but in Victor Boniface and Jonas Hofmann, Bayer have signed a pair of fine final-third operators.

Watch: All eyes on Alonso's Leverkusen

Boniface crossed low for Jeremie Frimpong to open the scoring against Leipzig, while Hofmann's corner was headed in for Jonathan Tah for 2-0. Florian Wirtz then had a goal sandwiched by Dani Olmo and Lois Openda strikes, but the victory was safer than the 3-2 scoreline might suggest. The 3-0 triumph over Gladbach during matchday two was a fairer reflection of their domination, with Boniface bagging a brace and Tah netting for a second successive game.

While Frimpong and Tah both reportedly attracted interest from English Premier League clubs in the summer, they have stayed, to be joined by former Arsenal captain Granit Xhaka. Alex Grimaldo has also arrived from Benfica, while Alonso has further boosted his forward line with the capture of winger Nathan Tella, who scored 17 goals in 39 English Championship games last term as Burnley earned promotion to the Premier League.

Xhaka settling in quickly

To say Leverkusen have had an impressive summer would be a gross understatement, but Alonso also deserves praise for re-moulding a cohesive unit so quickly.

Xhaka's arrival, in particular, has given Leverkusen the experience and know-how they perhaps previously lacked, and it seems the former Gladbach man is loving life back in Germany.

"The Bundesliga is always attractive," he told bundesliga.com. "I know because I was here for four years, and I know how the Premier League is. 

Exciting influx

"To be back myself, and with Harry Kane as well, is something the Bundesliga can be proud about. We'll try to give our best to make the Bundesliga as exciting as possible." 

While putting himself in the same breath as Kane - who already has three goals in his first two Bundesliga matches - might be bold, there is no question that the former Arsenal man's experience can lift the level of those around him, like Exequiel Palacios alongside or even, perhaps, Wirtz up ahead.

In Jeremie Frimpong, Granit Xhaka and Exequiel Palacios (l-r.), Leverkusen have an exciting blend of youth and experience. - IMAGO/Uwe Kraft

Steel and silk

A combination of steel and silk was a signature of Alonso as a player, and he is perhaps unsurprisingly one of the betting favourites to succeed Carlo Ancelotti as Real Madrid manager in the longer term.

Alonso was still a Real Sociedad midfielder when Bayer had their 'Neverkusen' season in 2002 - finishing as runners-up in each of the Bundesliga, DFB Cup and UEFA Champions League.

But 21 years on, Die Werkself have rarely looked so well-equipped to make a bid for silverware. The season is young, and it is too soon to jump to conclusions, but with Xhaka and Co. recruited, and Alonso steering the ship, the sky could be the limit.