If you're a Bundesliga aficionado, you wouldn't have been surprised with Dortmund's success in recent years, culminating in reaching the UEFA Champions League final last season.
Leverkusen are coming and you better pay attention to Hyypiä's team.
Don't fall into the trap of calling them an underdog just because their players aren't overrated and overpaid like certain Premier League footballers.
Bayern's one loss in the Bundesliga came against Leverkusen.
Just quietly, Leverkusen are now the best alternative to Bayern and Dortmund.
Do you know who was a better player in league-play last season than Álvaro Negredo, Antonio Di Natale and Luis Suárez?
Leverkusen's Stefan Kießling.
|LEAGUE ONLY||Goals + Assists||Total Goals||Shots Per Goal/Shots Created Per Game|
|Kießling||25 + 7||32||4.8/2.0|
|Negredo||25 + 1||26||6.0/1.1|
|Di Natale||23 + 4||27||5.7/1.3|
|Suárez||23 + 5||28||8.1/2.7|
Kießling isn't just a goalscorer because he can facilitate for his teammates, present himself as an aerial presence with 5.4 headers per game and unlike Suárez, the German is a precision finisher.
With shrewd summer transfers, the Leverkusen brass with Rudi Völler as its sporting director, who led Germany to the 2002 FIFA World Cup final, has added more weapons around their star No. 9.
- IN: Heung Min Son signed from Hamburg for €10 million
- IN: Robbie Kruse signed from Fortuna Düsseldorf for €1.5 million
Son, an ambidextrous and agile forward, scored one more goal (12) than Schürrle (11) with lesser teammates.
Kruse created the same amount of goals (7) as Schürrle whilst playing for Fortuna, a club that didn't just get relegated but no-one on the team netted 10 league goals or more.
Schürrle to Leverkusen wasn't even the equivalent of what Max Kruse was to Freiburg let alone Mario Götze to Dortmund.
Here's how you know Leverkusen shamelessly inflated Schürrle's transfer value: Juventus paid €10.7 million less for Arturo Vidal, a world-class box-to-box midfielder.
The key characteristic of Michael Zorc, Hans-Joachim Watzke and Jürgen Klopp at Dortmund is smart transfers.
The Leverkusen upper management has constructed an elite squad without approaching the transfer market in a reckless manner.
Lars Bender, CM, Age: 24
In the UEFA Europa League, he won back possession 40 times while only committing three free kicks.
He has always been renowned for his efficient tackling (was only carded once in the Bundesliga last season) but his three goals and six assists in league play illustrate his transformation into a more composed version of Vidal.
It's only a matter of time before he is sold for €30 million+ (rest assured, Leverkusen management has learned from the Vidal fiasco).
Bernd Leno, GK, Age: 21
The emerging keeper received a higher kicker player rating than Marc-André ter Stegen last season.
When he's playing with the right frame of mind, he is a superb shot-stopper, but when he begins to doubt himself, he turns into Pepe Reina.
Leno's mistakes against the Dutch at the Euro U-21s brought back memories of Barcelona's 7-1 win.
The man waiting to take advantage of Leno is veteran Andrés Palop, who succeeded Diego López at Sevilla, who left to replace Iker Casillas at Real Madrid.
Philipp Wollscheid, CB, Age: 24
He's yet to replicate his Nürnberg form where he was rated as one of the league's best players.
That said, Wollscheid is strong at winning back the ball and is a more accurate passer (86.3 percent) than Mats Hummels (83).
Wollscheid plays like a top-notch centre-back, but he needs to be more consistent.
Stefan Reinartz, CM, Age: 24
He gambles a lot when it comes to charging out and attempting to intercept a pass, hence why he was second behind Dani Carvajal in interceptions per game for Leverkusen.
Reinartz is physical presence in the middle and loves to throw his body around.
Simon Rolfes, CM, Age: 31
A savvy midfielder who offers more intangible qualities like leadership than tangible measures i.e. tackles per game, passing percentage, etc.
"Simon has great strategic skills and was a great contributor to our recent success," Völler said via Sky Sports upon the club announcing their decision to extend Rolfes' contract till 2015. "The signature of Simon is big news for our future players."
Gonzalo Castro, Utility Player, Age: 26
He's the unsung hero of this team.
Right-back, left-back, holding midfielder, box-to-box midfielder, right forward—Castro's middle name should be versatility.
Castro is willing to sacrifice individual glory for team success, which was the same mentality Steve Nicol had for Liverpool.
Hyypiä Facing Several Dilemmas
- Can Giulio Donati fill the substantial void left by Carvajal? The Spaniard's world class displays at right-back prompted Real Madrid to activate his buy-back clause.
- Will Son be afforded the same freedom as Schürrle?
- How will Hyypiä handle Arkadiusz Milik's discontent? Signed from Górnik Zabrze with a reputation as a potential gem, the Polish prospect has dropped into the Leverkusen second team due to Kießling being one of the preeminent strikers in the world.
- In recent memory, Leverkusen underestimated the upside of Bastian Oczipka, Fabian Giefer and Pirmin Schwegler, all three turned into elite players upon leaving the Werkself. Who's next? Sidney Sam?
- Where will Kruse, who's in the prime of his career, fit into the starting XI?
Hyypiä The Manager
He was a late bloomer as a player who only hit the big time when a cameraman had the courage of his convictions to implore then Liverpool chief executive Peter Robinson to sign the unknown Finnish international.
In contrast, Hyypiä's managerial career has blossomed early on with Leverkusen management confident he can guide the team without the assistance of Sascha Lewandowski, who shared the managerial duties with Hyypiä last season.
Philip Röber at UEFA.com identifies Leverkusen's primary formation as an unorthodox 4-3-2-1: "Coaching duo Sami Hyypiä and Sascha Lewandowski preferred a 4-3-2-1 formation that relied on winning the midfield battle and playing on the counterattack."
If you look at the average positioning of Leverkusen's players during the 5-0 win over Hoffenheim, it's more a 4-3-2-1 with the "2" specifically Schürrle, acting as a quasi-No. 9.
Son, who regularly interchanged from flanks to a more central position at Hamburg, is expected to replace Schürrle.
If Hyypiä can turn Leverkusen into a title contending team like Dortmund, the 39-year-old won't be needing to beg for a job with the club he loves, which is what Arsenal legend Tony Adams is doing after a string of managerial failures.
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