We are six games into the Bundesliga season and the Bayer Leverkusen storming start to the new campaign shows no signs of slowing down. Over the weekend, Xabi Alonso’s side put three past Mainz, on their way to a comfortable win, keeping them at the top of the table for another week.
Leverkusen have dropped points just once so far this season, in a 2-2 draw away to Bayern Munich, and they’ve claimed scalps over RB Leipzig and a Gladbach side that are probably a little undervalued after a slow start to the season. The underlying numbers definitely suggest that Leverkusen are overperforming right now, but they are clearly very, very good, and they look fit to give Bayern a real run for their money this season.
Hoffenheim 1-3 Borussia Dortmund
Heidenheim 1-0 Union Berlin
FC Köln 0-2 VfB Stuttgart
Mainz 0-3 Leverkusen
Wolfsburg 2-0 Frankfurt
VfL Bochum 1-3 Borussia Mönchengladbach
RB Leipzig 2-2 Bayern Munich
Darmstadt 4-2 Werder Bremen
Are Stuttgart the New Union?
Bayer Leverkusen are out in front at the top of the Bundesliga table, but right now it’s not Bayern Munich that are leading the chasing pack. No, it’s VfB Stuttgart! Stuttgart barely survived the drop last season, needing the playoffs to keep hold of their place in the Bundesliga, but it seems like Sebastian Hoeneß’s men are in no rush to return to last season’s struggles. On Saturday, they kept up their excellent form with a victory over a Köln side that put up a decent fight, just as they have done in every game this season, despite their torrid record. Perhaps Stuttgart are looking to replicate Union Berlin’s success last season?
There’s lots of reasons to doubt whether Stuttgart can keep this run of form going. They are overperforming xG at the moment, and they’ve faced a relatively easy schedule so far this season, but at the same time, they are playing some genuinely good football. Even according to xGD/90, they should still be no lower than third in the league. I am cautiously optimistic that Stuttgart can keep this going, and while I doubt we will see them playing Champions League football next season, I think they can at least put up a decent fight for a European qualification spot.
Where Stuttgart’s success differs from Union’s most is that this isn’t a small club punching well above its weight. If anything, this is exactly where a club like Stuttgart is supposed to be. They’re one of Germany’s biggest teams. Everyone loves an underdog story, but I think it would be good for the league if we also saw Germany’s heavyweights compete for the top prizes more often.
Maybe Hamburg will one day make it out of 2. Bundesliga too? Okay, lets not get ahead of ourselves.
What do you make of the Bundesliga’s top two right now? Are their brilliant starts to the season a mirage, or are Bayer Leverkusen a genuine title contender and Stuttgart one of the chasing pack?