Bayer Leverkusen has started the Bundesliga season strongly, going blow-for-blow with the perennial champions Bayern Munich, in the opening stages of the campaign.
The club has experienced an extensive tactical revolution as Xabi Alonso impressively integrated his dynamic position-based attacking football, placing them amongst the most exciting teams to look out for in Europe this season.
An essential cog in the Leverkusen machine is a player who, in the past, was speculated for a transfer out to a European elite. Yet, he has remained and contributed remarkably to the club’s success of consistently qualifying for European competitions – Jeremie Frimpong.
We live in a world where fullbacks are as significant contributors to the attacking phases for teams as any forward, with the Dutch right back epitomizing that more than anyone.
📊 7 games
✅ 6 wins
🤝 1 draw
⚽️ 29 goals scored
🛑 6 goals conceded
Xabi Alonso's Bayer Leverkusen are cooking this season. ✨ pic.twitter.com/Uy1xf1UFeo
— Football Tweet ⚽ (@Football__Tweet) September 24, 2023
Right back or right winger?
Attacking fullbacks have usually occupied the flanks to overlap the wingers and attempt crosses into the penalty box – functioning near the touchline.
However, Frimpong is assigned to do a little more as he intrinsically takes upon the role of a winger.
In the opening games of the latest Bundesliga campaign, Xabi Alonso deployed a 4-2-4 attacking shape for his team, with Frimpong engaging as a right forward.
From this position, the Dutch fullback crosses the ball into the penalty box to find the run of an oncoming attacker.
Take this assist for Florian Wirtz against RB Leipzig on August 19 as an example.
But if you notice, Frimpong is closer to the penalty box than the touchline. Unlike a traditional attacking fullback like Reece James or Kyle Walker, which is a constant theme when analyzing his match footage.
Xabi Alonso understands the many upsides of playing the Dutchman in an offensive position rather than limiting his performance with overburdening defensive responsibilities.
Therefore, the former Spanish midfielder plays with a ‘back 5’ formation. This allows the left-back to play more conservatively, while the right-center-back moves to the right-back slot to fill in for Frimpong, who joins the offensive line.
Bayern 2 : 2 Leverkusen
— markstats bot (@markstatsbot) September 15, 2023
(The image on the top right shows the average positions of Bayer Leverkusen players in a league match against Bayern Munich)
Furthermore, take a look at Frimpong’s position for his assist against SV Darmstadt and goal against RB Leipzig.
In these situations, he essentially plays as an inverted forward – taking up positions in the penalty box, untypical of most fullbacks.
Frimpong’s role as a right-sided winger has resulted in his ranking as the only “defender” in the Bundesliga’s top 10 goal contributors after the fourth game week – recording a goal and three assists.
Therefore, do not misconstrue Frimpong’s role as a traditional right back. Although he may perform some of its defensive duties, his primary responsibility is to function as a winger.
What does the future behold for Frimpong?
So far in his tender career, elite clubs have considered Frimpong as their potential successor at right back, with Manchester United, Barcelona, and Bayern Munich having shown interest previously.
Teams weighing up a move for him in the winter or the following summer transfer window must thoroughly understand the aspects Frimpong excels in and the bang for the buck they will acquire. The same applies to the player, who should evaluate the tactical compatibility of his style to any suitors that may arrive in the future.
Admirers of the Dutchman will soon be bidders willing to dip into their deep pockets if he continues in this trajectory, as he will soon be the hottest fullback prospect in the European market.