It is safe to say the honeymoon period is over for Bayer Leverkusen trainer Xabi Alonso. The high initial high of last weekend’s 4-0 win over Schalke has been well and truly put into perspective by a midweek Champions League defeat to Porto and a chastening 5-0 loss to Eintracht Frankfurt. The coach might be new, but the problems with the Werkself remain the same.
The comments aired by Kerem Demirbay following Leverkusen’s loss to Bayern Munich seems to be repeated after the final whistle at the Deutsche Bank Park indicating clearly that the problems that led to Gerardo Seoane’s sacking are very much still problems Xabi Alonso has to solve
“Frankfurt played Bayer mercilessly into the ground. Demirbay said honestly. “We were very bad and are bad at the moment. It has to go forward. Very quickly.
“You know, it’s like this: football is always decided by attitude. The difference between a good footballer and a professional is always the head. It’s always about winning on the pitch. And if that doesn’t get into your head, that it’s all about this fucking winning, that we have to score points and the situation is very difficult, then we have a big problem.”
Teammate Robert Andrich was in a similar mood. “The problems don’t go with the coach. It’s still the players who are on the pitch who are responsible for it. We have to get out of the shit, we have to go forward. We have to get points, whether it’s good football or ugly football.
“Every game is going to be brutally difficult. We have to address that very clearly in the team, otherwise I don’t see it for us.”
If anyone believed by simply sacking Seoane and installing Alonso that Leverkusen’s issues would vanish, they will have been swiftly woken up by the last two games to the reality. 16th place in the league is what their football deserves right now and anything other than a win next week against VfL Wolfsburg could see them into the bottom two.
The problems for Alonso are manifold- both in defence and in attack. Defensively far too many mistakes are creeping in (not so much creeping as striding right in). Against Porto the opening goal was far too easy with one long goal kick bypassing the defence in one stroke. Amin Adli and Odilon Kossounou both gave away totally unnecessary penalties to hand the game to the Portuguese on a plate.
Kossounou was again poor against Frankfurt with Piero Hincapie joining him in culpability. Despite scoring the equaliser, the Ecuadorian was beaten very easily in the air by Randal Kolo Muani for the hosts second, fluffed his header to let Jesper Lindstrom in for the third, before bringing down Kolo Muani for the penalty that made it 4-1. To add insult to injury he was sent off for a second yellow card.
Edmond Tapsoba gave away the first penalty and at times you could have driven a bus through the Leverkusen back line such was the space being afforded their opponents. That is now four penalties conceded in two games! The concentration is lacking, communication and leadership are lacking, and teams know that if you put them under pressure they will crack.
Offensively, there is plenty of pace with Moussa Diaby and Jeremie Frimpong, but too often attack just fizzle out with a poor final ball or a poor finish to the chance. The missed penalty against Porto in the first half could have changed the game.
Patrik Schick is simply not offering anything like what he did last season with the danger at the point of the Leverkusen attack virtually non-existent. In Frankfurt, the Czech didn’t register a single shot on goal, let alone on target.
Speaking after the Porto defeat coach Xabi Alonso admitted, “Today there is pain, but that’s football. Today is a lesson for us,” If there was pain on Tuesday, there must be agony following Saturday. If Porto was a lesson, some of his students need detention for not learning it. If the basic issues are not sorted and improved quickly, there promises to be more pain for the Werkself.