Sitting pretty in third place over the winter break, with qualification for the UEFA Champions League knockout rounds also assured, and having turned die Werkself into one of the most potent attacking forces in the Bundesliga, Schmidt has left quite the mark in his first 17 games in charge.
After a fourth-place finish in 2013/14, sporting director Rudi Völler stated prior to this campaign that "our target is to qualify for the Champions League and hopefully give some of the sides above us a hard time". New coach Schmidt, meanwhile, added prophetically that "we want to excite people".
The side is certainly on track to achieve its aims. Leverkusen lie in third place, and have already beaten two of the sides who finished above them last season, Borussia Dortmund and FC Schalke 04. Karim Bellarabi's fastest goal in Bundesliga history against BVB, meanwhile, showed Schmidt's aim of exciting people was reaping its rewards.
- Leverkusen are yet to lose a home game under Roger Schmidt. The BayArena has so far played host to four wins and five draws.
- With 305 shots on goal, only league leaders FC Bayern München have fired in more efforts than Leverkusen.
- Each of Hakan Calhanoglu's four goals this season has come from outside the box.
- With 42 cards received in the Hinrunde, Leverkusen share the worst disciplinary record with Hamburger SV.
- Leverkusen have only won seven of 17 games this Hinrunde, at this stage last season, they had racked up 12 victories.
- Stefan Kießling failed to score for 850 minutes between Matchday 1 and Matchday 12 - the longest drought of his Bundesliga career.
Best of social media"Bayer 04 celebrating," reads this satisfied tweet sent after the 5-1 derby win over 1. FC Köln...
When Bellarabi returned to the BayArena this summer, there was uncertainty about how long he would need to settle back into the team. Scoring after nine seconds on the opening Matchday offered a resounding answer to any questions about his ability, with Bellarabi now a key cog in Schmidt's system. Joachim Löw rewarded his performances with , and with eight goals in the Hinrunde, the 24-year-old is currently one of the Bundesliga's best attackers.
"To be honest, it’s something pretty special."
- Bellarabi on scoring after nine seconds on Matchday 1 against Borussia Dortmund, the fastest goal in Bundesliga history
Matchday 13: Bayer 04 Leverkusen 5-1 1. FC Köln
After going a goal down early, Schmidt's men completely dominated proceedings in a feisty Rheinderby against a predictably competitive Köln side. Braces from Bellarabi and Josip Drmic, as well as a trademark free kick from Calhanoglu gave die Werkself the three points and the bragging rights.
With the chase for the Champions League spots as tight as ever, there is no room to switch off in the second half of the campaign. After seven draws in the Hinrunde, all of which came against sides below them, Schmidt will want to turn dropped points into wins to secure a place at Europe's top table as soon as possible. With Spanish champions Club Atletico de Madrid on the horizon in the last 16 of the Champions League as well, the 47-year-old tactician will have his work cut out.