Very rarely has a manager dominated their domestic league over a three season period like BSC Young Boys’ Gerardo Seoane. The Swiss manager has led his Bern-based team to a shocking 81 points in 35 matches this season, nearly 30 more than second place FC Basel on 53. With his unique style of football and winning mentality, a host of Bundesliga clubs were interested in securing the signature of Seoane, with the Swiss ultimately signing on for Bayer Leverkusen. So ahead of the 2021-22 Bundesliga season, we take a look at what Gerardo Seoane might bring to Bayer Leverkusen.
SYSTEM OF PLAY: 4-4-2
BSC Young Boys operated in a 4-4-2 formation throughout their time under Seoane. The formation often adapted to 2-4-4 in attacking phases, with the wingers inverting and the fullbacks high and wide. In truth, the formation is also very similar to 4-2-2-2, as the wingers remain inverted in many phases of the game, particularly attacking ones.
In this formation, Young Boys Bern were particularly direct in their attacking approach, whilst also being very narrow and compact in defense. Their desire to attack quickly and vertically was backed up by the 4-4-2, as much as their desire to win the ball back quickly and press high. Leverkusen will likely implement the exact same principles of play with Seoane in charge, even if the formation shifts away from 4-4-2.
Under both Hannes Wolf and Peter Bosz, Bayer Leverkusen didn’t play a single match this season in a 4-4-2 formation. Bosz favoured a more possession-based 4-3-3, whilst Wolf deployed a more fluid 3-4-2-1 that allowed for more positional interchange. The players can certainly adapt to Seoane’s style, but a 4-2-3-1 might suit the personnel better. As much as Young Boys’ 4-4-2 was really more 4-2-2-2, Leverkusen would likely need their wingers to take a more defensive approach, and the likes of Leon Bailey, Karim Bellarabi, and Demarai Gray are best further forward.
That said, Leverkusen actually have quite a few useful options at striker if Seoane wanted to deploy a front-two. Joel Pohjanpalo is set to return from Union Berlin after a season-long loan, while Lucas Alario and Patrik Schick have both scored a decent amount of goals in 2020-21. The problem is perhaps that the balance isn’t quite the same as Seoane had at Young Boys, with one target man and one smaller player to run in behind. Schick, Pohjanpalo and Alario are all giants. Leverkusen could still invest in the transfer market, or perhaps the versatile Moussa Diaby is the man to pair up with a giant instead.
In central midfield, Seoane would have several options that are very similar to what he had at Young Boys. The likes of Kerem Demirbay, Nadiem Amiri and Charles Aranguiz always put a shift in, and while they aren’t brilliant at one particular aspect of the game, they do a very solid defensive job and are good in possession. Edmond Tapsoba at the back also likes to hit long passes and is quite capable at doing so, which would suit Seoane’s direct style well.
Very much a possession-based side under Bosz, Bayer Leverkusen have still managed to complete the third most long passes per game this season with 67. This will certainly continue under Gerardo Seoane, who favours a direct style of football. The Swiss likes to get the ball up to his forwards early on in moves, through both vertical passes and vertical runs. Many of these passes are longer ones into wide channels for the strikers to chase onto, rather than hopeful balls for a striker to head down. This would suit Lucas Alario’s style of play in particular, but also the speedsters in behind him like Demarai Gray, Karim Bellarabi, Moussa Diaby and Leon Bailey. Given where the speed in the side is, Seoane might adapt his long-ball approach to be one that opens up space for his wingers, rather than his forwards.
Leverkusen have also completed the third most crosses per game in the league (20), and have favoured the right side when doing so. Both of these tactics are consistent with BSC Young Boys, and should give Seoane lots to work with upon his arrival. Leverkusen may however need a new right-back. Lars Bender announced his retirement from the team last week, while Tin Jedvaj hasn’t managed to rack up any consistent game time this season. Jonathan Tah’s had to shift out to the right from time to time instead, with Moussa Diaby playing as a right-wing-back in their 3-4-2-1. Right fullback Silvan Hefti was one of Young Boys’ most important players under Seoane, and the Swiss manager may look to bring him to the club, or look for reinforcements elsewhere. Either way, right-back is certainly an area worth strengthening for Seoane’s team next season.
BSC Young Boys’ success was in large part predicated around an astute ability to defend and win the ball back quickly after losing it. Their press was high, aggressive and successful, which will certainly be implemented at Bayer Leverkusen. Die Werkself are often known for playing a high-tempo, aggressive, heavy metal style, and Seoane’s ideals line up perfectly in this regard. However, the club massively struggled with their press this season, and made the least amount of interceptions in the league. The backroom staff will be aware of this, and Seoane’s arrival should mark a change in their defensive mindset.
In the likes of Diaby, Bellarabi and Bailey, Seoane has several willing runners, pressers and chasers. Their 4-2-2-2 high press or 4-4-2 mid-block will then need to adapt on a game by game basis depending on the opposition, and the aforementioned players will need to improve their defensive attributes under Seoane. The Swiss coach will likely make their press more rigid and organized than it was under Wolf and Bosz, and even if a 4-2-3-1 were to be deployed, the 4-4-2 pressing shape may stay the same (as it tends to do). We should expect to see the defensive stats of the likes of Bellarabi, Diaby and Bailey to skyrocket next season, that is, if they’re willing to buy-into Seoane’s principles.
With the current players he has at his disposal, Seoane likely would be unable to implement the 4-3-1-2 pressing shape that he adapted to against midfield three’s in the Swiss Super League. While Diaby could potentially play a more reserved role, the others would be better off staying wide or high. But the Swiss manager could do well in an actual 4-3-1-2 shape to begin with, since he has more than enough capable central midfielders and Florian Wirtz, who would be excellent as the lone attacking midfielder. Regardless, with different players and a completely different league, Seoane will likely need to adapt his pressing philosophies. This should make it all the more interesting to see exactly how he lines up his team next season.
In many ways, Gerardo Seoane and Bayer Leverkusen appear to be a perfect match. With ideals of long passing, aggressive pressing, and high-tempo attacking play, they definitely would have swiped right on each other. The Swiss manager may be a bit inexperienced at the very, very top level. But then again, that can also be said of this current crop of Bayer Leverkusen players, who really just need a manager to galvanize them back into the UEFA Champions League. Gerardo Seoane could easily be that man, and we can’t wait to see him take over at Bayer Leverkusen next season.
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