Xabi Alonso has just said exactly what Liverpool and FSG should love to hear
Liverpool is searching for a new manager to take over from Jürgen Klopp. Xabi Alonso is the outstanding candidate and he took another big step forward this weekend.
It is becoming increasingly apparent that Xabi Alonso is the outstanding candidate as Liverpool looks to replace Jürgen Klopp. The ill-informed argument that he is only a major option because of his previous Anfield links is getting weaker by the game.
This weekend, Alonso’s Bayer Leverkusen moved five points clear of the top of the Bundesliga table by beating Bayern Munich 3-0. It was a statement performance that saw the Spaniard’s team dominate. As Liverpool.com has previously covered, while his tenure at Leverkusen has only been relatively short, it has been impressive — as was his job at Real Sociedad B too.
Leverkusen generated more than double the expected goals of Thomas Tuchel’s side on Saturday and Harry Kane barely had a kick. Thomas Müller’s explosive interview post-match has gone viral, in which he made clear just how ‘p****d off’ he was.
Bayern Munich is simply not used to losing and its grip on the title is slipping. If Alonso does win the title, he will become the first non-Bayern boss to do so since Klopp with Borussia Dortmund in 2012.
Winning is just one element of the case for Alonso to move to Anfield, however. It is still possible that Bayern Munich will win the title and while that would be a disappointment for Leverkusen, what it has already done is still a remarkable achievement.
More impressive than that, though, is the way that Alonso has established a way of playing with a strong group of young players. As Alonso himself has explained, his side is expert at pressing and dominating. As FSG seeks to make the right appointment, someone who coaches in that style is perfect for the group of players that Klopp will leave behind.
“The first thing that comes to mind is not being so dominant with the ball, but to be dominant without the ball,” Alonso explained in an interview with ESPN after the Bayern Munich game. This was a rare example of Leverkusen having less than 50 per cent of the ball, but it didn’t matter: the league leader simply adapted to the circumstances.
“I think that without the ball, we have been able to control the spaces. For sure, the first goal was really important but the conviction and the determination of the players is what comes to my mind first.
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Today, for me, the defensive work of Nathan [Tella], Flo [Wirtz] and Amine Adli [the team’s attackers] has been fantastic, because when they choose the right time to press the center-back and when they need to cut the pass into the midfielders, they were not jumping to create the space where [Leroy] Sané and [Jamal] Musiala were — they were waiting to find this space.
“And [Harry] Kane was dropping — he likes to drop, so we have taken many right decisions of when and where to press. Because of that, we have been able to control the game.”
Leverkusen has only conceded 14 goals this season while scoring 55. Having played Bayern Munich home (a 3-0 win) and away (a 2-2 draw), it only needs to go another 13 games without defeat and Alonso will have masterminded an unbeaten season, which has never been done before in Germany.
The appeal to FSG and Liverpool is clear. At Anfield, Alonso would inherit a group of players that includes Dominik Szoboszlai and Curtis Jones — two expert pressers in midfield. There is still work to do before the current Liverpool attack can match the intensity of the press that Mohamed Salah, Roberto Firmino and Sadio Mané mastered, but the signs are positive. If Alonso can get a good group of Leverkusen stars playing as they are, just imagine what he could make of a Liverpool team that is considerably more talented but similarly suited to a high-intensity style.
Whether it is through outplaying an opponent or pressing it into submission, Alonso has Leverkusen impressing in a variety of ways this season. It is obvious — both from Alonso’s comments, which should be music to the ears of those in charge of finding a Klopp successor, and from watching his team — that he would be well-placed to do a great job on Merseyside. The Liverpool search will be extensive but looking beyond the Spaniard is becoming increasingly difficult.