Xabi Alonso watch: What Liverpool fans learned from Bayer Leverkusen's win over Bayern Munich

  • Xabi Alonso is the favourite to replace Jurgen Klopp at Liverpool
  • The Spaniard is currently in charge of Bayer Leverkusen
  • His team are top of the Bundesliga and five points clear of Bayern Munich
Another win
Another win / Stefan Matzke - sampics/GettyImages

After Jurgen Klopp announced his intention to leave Liverpool at the end of the 2023/24 season, attention immediately turned to who could replace him in the Anfield hotseat.

Sporting CP's Ruben Amorim has been discussed, as has footballing icon Zinedine Zidane, but Liverpool fans (and probably the club itself too) only have eyes for one manager: Bayer Leverkusen's Xabi Alonso.

The ex-Liverpool midfielder has propelled Leverkusen to the top of the Bundesliga table this season and in with a genuine chance of winning their first league title ever (yes, ever).

Here's everything Liverpool fans learned from Leverkusen's most recent Bundesliga game.

Bayer Leverkusen 3-0 Bayern Munich

Bayer 04 Leverkusen v FC Bayern München - Bundesliga
Huge win / Sebastian El-Saqqa - firo sportphoto/GettyImages

The biggest test of Alonso's managerial career thus far, and it's fair to say that he passed with flying colours.

Alonso's side went into Saturday's game with a narrow two-point lead atop the table, burdened with decades of Bundesliga failures (Leverkusen have never won the league, finishing second on five occasions) and faced with a team who have utterly dominated German football over the last decade (Bayern have won 11 titles in a row), it would've been very easy for Leverkusen to crumble.

Instead, they excelled.

Leverkusen expertly dispatched of Bayern at the BayArena, restricting their adversaries to 0.56 xG while scoring three goals of their own through Josip Stanisic - who is on loan from Bayern - Alex Grimaldo and Jeremie Frimpong.

The result leaves Alonso's side five points clear in the Bundesliga, having not lost a single game in any competition so far this season. Pretty damn impressive if you ask us.

Outsmarting Thomas Tuchel

Bayer 04 Leverkusen v FC Bayern München - Bundesliga
Tactical masterclass / Sebastian El-Saqqa - firo sportphoto/GettyImages

It says a lot about the team that Alonso has cultivated that Thomas Tuchel completely changed his tactical system in order to combat Leverkusen's quality.

It says even more about Alonso that he foresaw this and made a few tactical tweaks to counteract it.

Tuchel has switched up his side in order to nullify the threat of Leverkusen's flying wing-backs - particularly the direct Frimpong on the right side - sacrificing a man in midfield to do so. Using a crystal ball (probably), Alonso foresaw this tweak, starting Stanisic in Frimpong's stead in order to have an extra player who could drift into midfield to provide overloads in the middle of the park on and close up any half-spaces Harry Kane, Jamal Musiala and co were hoping to hurt Leverkusen in.

That slight change proved to be one of the keys to the game, with Bayern loanee Stanisic popping up with the opener, Kane and Musiala combining for a grand total of two shots on goal, and Bayern being completely overrun in midfield.

Stopping Harry Kane

Edmond Tapsoba, Harry Kane
No joy for Kane / Stefan Matzke - sampics/GettyImages

As mentioned, Leverkusen made mince meat of Kane on Saturday.

The forward - who has scored 24 goals and set up five in his first Bundesliga games - was restricted to one shot on goal, 18 touches of the ball and a xG + xA of just 0.08 at the Bay Arena

Alonso's side were able to keep Kane quiet thanks to the compactness of their set-up off the ball. With 10 to 15 yards between their further forward attacker and their back five out of possession, Leverkusen closed up the half-spaces that the England captain hurts teams from.

The manager's attacking set-up has rightfully garnered plenty of praise this season, but his attention to the defensive side of the game is what makes Alonso an all-round brilliant manager.

Alex Grimaldo's current role = Trent Alexander-Arnold's future role?

Alex Grimaldo
Star man / Lars Baron/GettyImages

If you've seen Leverkusen play this season, you'll know just how bloody incredible Grimaldo has been. And if you haven't well the fact that he's scored 10 goals and bagged nine assists in all competitions tells you all you really need to know.

The Spain international starts games as Leverkusen's wing-back but drifts to wherever he is most needed in both the defensive and offensive thirds, something which Alonso has admitted that the player simply has a knack for.

"I knew him and analysed him a lot, but I will not deny that he has exceeded my expectations. How he is naturalising, how he knows how to find [space], I can teach him things but to a certain limit, right?" said Alonso.

"I can prepare him but then, in the end, his quality and his way of having that intuition or understanding the game like that, well, he has surprised me too. He does everything well. And I tell him 'this is going to happen, but then you will move', because he can play as a full-back, as a winger, or he can appear inside and reach the box. He interprets [the game] very well."

Knowing the capacity of Trent Alexander-Arnold in both a full-back and central midfield role, the freedom Alonso has given Grimaldo - and the results of said freedom - certainly should excite Liverpool fans. Alexander-Arnold playing in a similar role would be a sight to behold under Alonso next season.