Bayer Leverkusen aiming to kick on in 2023/24 after a smart transfer window.
With a smart young head coach at the helm in Xabi Alonso, a host of exciting players and a sensible transfer window things are looking up for Die Werkself ahead of the upcoming Bundesliga season.
Having been reborn under Alonso’s tutelage, Leverkusen had a strong end to last campaign where they managed to secure Europa League football by finishing sixth and had a run to the semi finals of that competition where they were knocked out by a strong Roma side.
Leverkusen started off their summer business quickly by bringing in talented left back Alex Grimaldo from Portuguese league champions Benfica. Having been linked with big clubs such as Barcelona and Arsenal it came as a surprise to many that he decided to move to Germany when his contract expired.
Grimaldo excels in possession and made a name for himself as an assist machine in Portugal. His stats last season reflect this as he made a total of 16 assists in league play and Champions League action combined which is the sign of world class talent.
With Mitchell Bakker out the door, Grimaldo is more than a ready made replacement. However he will have to tame his attacking forays a little as right back Jeremie Frimpong almost lines up as a right winger in Alonso’s system.
As just mentioned Frimpong likes to push as far forward as the right back positions allows him so it is therefore important that Leverkusen have a more defensive alternative to the Netherlands international. Step in Arthur.
At only just 20 years of age you can expect Arthur to be slowly integrated into the first team. The Brazilian right back propelled his name into the limelight at the under-20 South American Championships this year where his performances caught the eyes of many clubs.
Although he prefers the defensive side of the game the Brazilian is no slouch in the attacking third where his dangerous crosses cause havoc for defenders. For a fee of just €7 million Leverkusen may have just found a gem squad player.
Having been linked with this move for a while now, it finally got over the line for a fee of €15 million. Having just come off his best season in an Arsenal shirt, Xhaka will give this young team bags of experience as well as bite in the middle third.
With a more defensively minded player alongside him in Exequiel Palacios this should allow Xhaka to thrive and become the scoring threat that he was last term. Alonso clearly wanted Xhaka’s signing to be a priority and he has got his man on a four year contract.
Leverkusen wasted no time in securing their services of the German international Hofmann as they decided to pay his €10 million release clause at the beginning of the window. With Moussa Diaby gone it is hoped the versatile forward can go some way to replacing his output.
Although he is not the quickest of forwards he can easily find space and utilise it to the best of his ability as his 12 league goals and 10 league assists last season show. Having played in a range of possession based and counter attacking styles at Borussia Monchengladbach, he could be the perfect player for the quick transition style of Alonso.
Hofmann’s qualities do not stop there as he also had experience playing in attacking midfield as a false nine or even a right back as he has done for the German national team. Although he is 30-years-old he has just had a great season for a disappointing side so expect another strong showing.
The last major incoming player so far for Leverkusen is Nigerian striker Boniface who has joined from Union Saint-Gilloise for a fee of €20 million. Boniface is an all round striker who likes to link up play but is also adept at finishing off chances in the box.
With 22 goals in all competitions last season the hope for Alonso will be that he finally has a consistent striker which they lacked last season due to injury issues and players out of form. With smaller, quicker players playing just behind, Boniface will act as a good target man up top.
Although this looks to be a smart signing it remains to be seen what happens to the once prolific Patrick Schick, his exciting countryman Adam Hlozek and the underrated Sardar Azmoun. Alonso may look to shift at least one of these players on otherwise there may be questions being asked in the changing room.
What happens next:
After a 8-0 hammering of lowly Teutonia in the DFB Pokal opening round, Leverkusen will start their season in much tougher fashion against newly crowned German Super Cup winners RB Leipzig on Saturday.
The majority of these new signings will be expected to start the game as they did in the DFB Pokal victory. However it remains to be seen how they cope without the influential Diaby who has departed for the riches of the Premier League with Aston Villa.
After returning from injury last campaign, Florian Wirtz proved that he is the catalyst in this Leverkusen side and any attacking play will most probably go through him. Also impressing towards the back end of last season was Amine Adli who is very much a Diaby style of player with his pace and dribbling ability.
Having now secured players who add depth in every position on the pitch, Alonso will be aiming to recapture a top four spot and a place in next season’s Champions League as well as another strong showing in European competition.
Having been linked with the Real Madrid job for next year, fans of Leverkusen should enjoy his managerial prowess while they still can.