Enjoying a great start of their season under new manager Gerardo Seoane, Bayer Leverkusen are one of the best playing teams in Europe at the moment. Let’s find out why.

Currently occupying the top spot in the Bundesliga standings alongside Bayern Munich having won five of their opening seven matches, Bayer Leverkusen have been exceptional so far.

Playing with confidence, verve and intensity, new manager Gerardo Seoane is doing a fantastic job of getting the best out of his squad. Hitting the ground running since joining in the summer from Young Boys, where he won three Swiss Super League titles, the astute tactician has done a remarkable job of implementing his philosophy onto his new team.

Registering eye-catching league victories over Borussia Monchengladbach, Augsburg, VfB Stuttgart, Mainz 05 and Arminia Bielefeld, plus winning all three of their Europa League clashes, which included a 4-0 thumping over Celtic, they've been a force to be reckoned with. “I'm pretty surprised by Seoane," explained Sky expert and former legend Lothar Matthaus.

"He understood and accepted the league in an urgent manner and gave Bayer Leverkusen a really great foundation. This includes fast, attractive football over the wings and a defensive structure that is almost better than in the past."

Winning eight of their 10 matches in all competitions while scoring 28 goals and only conceding eight, there's unquestionably been a lot to admire about their fast start to life under Seoane.

Offensively sparkling and full of gifted players, his favored base 4-2-3-1 setup has been perfect for the likes of Patrik Schick, Moussa Diaby, Paulinho, Nadiem Amiri, Karim Bellarabi, Amine Adli and especially wonderkid Florian Wirtz from the 10 slot to shine.

Able to hurt opponents in a variety of ways going forward, their attacking quartet is definitely a vital tenet of their plans. Excellent at occupying entire opposition backlines, this is achieved by their wingers coming infield to give them an enhanced central presence. In doing so, this draws the opposition fullbacks inside, which generates room for their fullbacks to maraud forward to provide width and depth to attacks.

Occupying the opposition backline 4v4
Drawing out to generate room for Frimpong on the overlap

As a result, opponents are uncertain whether to keep marking the indented winger or step out to the overlapping fullback, which can then open the channel for the winger to run into.

Adding to their capacity to stretch backlines vertically and horizontally is how the wingers and fullbacks rotate smartly, thus letting the fullbacks embark on damaging underlapping runs or the wingers to be isolated in advantageous 1v1s out wide or surge into the vacant wide spaces.

Crafty underlapping run into the final third by Frimpong

Touching again on their population of central areas and this allows them to combine rapidly to unlock defenses due to them being within close proximity to one another. Able to exchange quickfire passes to disorganize rearguards, open gaps for runners and bypass multiple markers, this has been key for them.

Moreover, this aspect of their game has benefited them immensely in terms of being proficient at executing slick rotations with one another to further unbalance their foes. Showing a strong understanding, it's also been important to note how they've used opposite movements to create space, where one player will drop and bring his man with him before a teammate then exploits this space.

Nice use of opposite movements as Bellarabi goes in behind when Schick drops deep

Boasting a superb blend of pace, creativity and positional intelligence, Leverkusen's fearsome frontline have been especially damaging on the counter. Swift to spring into life as soon as they regain possession, they bomb forward rapidly with their speedy wingers to hit the channels behind the opposition fullbacks while Schick offers a brilliant initial outlet to lay the ball off. Wirtz's incisive passing to oblige runners and smart positioning to drive forward or find space has been integral too.

Possessing such elite ball carriers, moving the ball quickly and running quality routes so defenders are drawn out and runners are available, Seoane deserves immense credit for ensuring Bayer are so lethal in transition.

Full of depth and class in midfield areas too, with Seoane able to call upon players such as Kerem Demirbay, Charles Aranguiz, Exequiel Palacios and Robert Andrich, whichever duo he chooses, he knows they can perform to a high level. Having the option of choosing a more defensively minded or attacking geared pairing, the double pivot has been crucial in adding balance in both phases of the game.

Key during build up, where Leverkusen have shown flexibility to build in a three, which sees either a midfielder drop or fullback stay deeper (in a more traditional fashion or with asymmetry), their mids have been sound at helping Bayer progress through the thirds.

Adept at luring out pressers before exploiting vacant spaces, being staggered at different heights so passing lanes can be accessed and at forming overloads, there's been much to admire about their work here.

Demirbay helping form a 4v3 during build up

Afforded plentiful freedom to connect passages, Wirtz's inventive movement has been valuable in generating midfield overloads and giving the ball holder an extra option. Altering their shape into more of a 4-3-3 when doing so, has meant Die Werkself can engage in intricate triangular combination play to play beyond the press, access third man runners and make sure goal-facing receivers get on the ball to progress attacks.

Wirtz dropping to create a 3v2 overload
Wirtz expertly finding space between the lines

Demirbay's playmaking from deep also deserves special mention, for he's a master at breathing life into moves with his ability to switch the play to the flanks, hit penetrative line-breaking passes or strike pinpoint through balls.

As the ball progresses through the thirds, it's been admirable how one of the pivot will burst into the box to supply an extra option for deliveries into the area. Due to defenders usually being preoccupied with a marking assignment or ball watching, these runs from deep frequently go untracked and have given some additional impetus.

Having a top-notch target man in the form of Schick has been an asset, for he not only offers a fine option for crosses and set pieces, but also when Bayer can't beat the press and need to go long. Competent at then holding the ball up, nodding the ball down to regain second balls or flicking it onto a runner, Schick's been a handy reference point indeed.

Considering Leverkusen get support around him and their attackers are usually well connected, adds to their success at keeping or recovering the ball.

By the numbers in the Bundesliga, the fact they rank third for attempted dribbles (31.34 per 90), third for progressive runs (16.74 p90), equal fourth for key passes (4.82 p90), sixth for shots (12.05 p90) and seventh for touches inside the penalty area (17.01 p90) demonstrates their danger.

Meanwhile, there have been many encouraging signs from their defensive efforts, with Seoane's imprint clearly resonating through to the players. Not hugely aggressive pressers, they instead are content sitting in a compact mid-block shape that allows them to break immediately once they regain possession. Being so compact and closely connected in their 4-2-2-2/4-4-2 or 4-2-3-1, Seoane's men are ideally spaced to break through opposition counter pressure to transition at speed with multiple outlets.

The fact they're typically spaced efficiently means they can access multiple opponents, block passing lanes and set pressing traps as well.

When they do press, it's usually been in a coordinated, structured way, as they've responded to triggers such as a backpass, a pass towards the touchline, if a player drops with their back to goal or if they're on the verge of inheriting a poor pass.

By cleverly angling and curving their harrying, plus using their cover shadows to block pass lanes behind them, opponents' options have been limited and added to their ability to recover the ball high and attack again vs. unset defenses who tend to be in spread out build up animations. Limiting their options by hemming them against the touchline away from central zones and giving targets minimal time on the ball, has been a real highlight of theirs so far.

Coordinated angled pressing to hem in their opponents

Some further upside can be drawn from their counterpressing immediately after they lose possession. Reacting promptly and intensely to win the ball back to prevent the counter and recover possession high up to immediately drive forward, many promising sequences have been created from this.

Image 9 - Intense counterpressing to win back possession high

In addition, if they can't instantly get the ball back, Leverkusen have at least still been able to slow down counters while they recover their positions and usher opponents away from threatening central areas.

Blessed with some pacy defenders and ones that excel in the duels on the ground and in the air, such as Odilon Kossounou, Jonathan Tah, the currently injured Edmond Tapsoba, Jeremie Frimpong, Mitchel Bakker, Piero Hincapie and the excellent Lukas Hradecky in goal, all this bodes well for now and the future as they continue to build relationships and assimilate to life under the new manager.

Rightfully receiving praise for the terrific job he's done to get Die Werkself firing at this early stage in his tenure, the players are evidently enjoying working with him too. "Everyone feels part of the team, everyone gets a share of the game. We have moved a little closer together in the dressing room. The guys are really focused and extremely effective," asserted Hradecky.

Sporting director Simon Rolfes also spoke on how pleased he's been with the new boss. "Gerardo has created a new performance culture. He challenges and encourages everyone to develop individually and we as a team,” he said to Bild.

Even though they've been outperforming their xG by nearly 10 goals and xGA by over five, which could eventually level out in time, there's no doubting they're on the right track at this early stage of the Seoane era.

Labeled as the eternal runners-up and having not won a title since 1993, optimism is high that this entertaining and talented side that their Swiss maestro is constructing could be the team to finally end their drought.

If you want to learn more about Wyscout Data & API, get in touch!
Start your 15-days Wyscout free trial now.
Follow Edward on Twitter.