It’s been all go over in Saxony this summer. The much vaunted departure of trainer Ralph Hasenhüttl happened, then came the slightly surprising news that Hoffenheim’s Julian Nagelsmann would become the new RB Leipzig coach at the start of the 2019-20 Bundesliga season. That just left the question as to who would fill the void for the upcoming campaign.
Into the breach has stepped (former Hoffenheim trainer) and current RB sporting director Ralf Rangnick, who will be assisted by Jesse Marsch (he formally of MLS outfit and Red Bull cousins New York Red Bulls). Unable to qualify for a Champions League berth last season die Roten Bullen will be desperate to return to the top of the table, but the question remains whether the Rangnick/ Marsch double act will be able to deliver.
It was always going to be a tough ask for RB Leipzig to replicate the amazing first season in the Bundesliga where for large stretches of the season, they were serious challengers to Bayern’s title ambitions. That they ultimately finished as runners-up was a tremendous achievement, but one that gave them an uphill task last season with the added burden of European football.
That they finished 6th did qualify for a Europa League play-in berth last season, but was a step backwards in the long-term plan. The forthcoming Bundesliga season will see the club looking to make a step forward under their new coaching team. Yes they are a ‘gap fill’ and ‘interim’ option, but Leipzig cannot afford for Rangnick and Marsch to just keep things ticking over until the arrival of Julian Nagelsmann- the club need to move forward.
60-year-old Rangnick certainly has the experience, having led Schalke to second spot in 2004-05, winning the Bundesliga 2 title with Hannover, taking Hoffenheim from the Regionalliga to the Bundesliga as well as reaching the Champions League semi-final during his second spell with Schalke.
“We have come to the conclusion that I will take on the role of head coach, supported by the best coaching staff at our disposal” Rangnick told the club’s website. “Ultimately, it came down to carrying responsibility – I know the league, the team and I speak the language. That isn’t the case yet for Jesse Marsch, so that’s why he will be working as an assistant coach.”
With former assistant to Hasenhüttl Zolt Löw leaving to join up with Thomas Tuchel over at Paris St Germain, the decision to bring over Jesse Marsch from the United States looks a good one from Leipzig.
“It’s the next step for me,” Marsch told reporters. “Ralf is an intelligent coach with a fantastic philosophy. Our alignment is very good and my role is clear. I can help with my experience and also learn a lot at the same time.”
The fact that Marsch knows the ‘Red Bull way’, having previously spent time in both Leipzig and Salzburg studying their set-ups, stands him in good stead. Indeed back in 2015 he travelled to Doha to accompany both clubs on their winter training camps.
His playing style while in charge in New York showed an affinity for Leipzig with a high-energy style of play which employed the high press and dynamic movement. It should come as second nature to the 44-year-old to transpose that mentality to training sessions with his new Bundesliga charges.
The loss of Naby Keita will be a big blow, and thus far the only major signings have been defenders Nordi Mukiele and Marcelo Saracchi, along with prolific young Swiss League striker Matheus Cunha. although efforts are still on-going to seal a permanent deal for Ademola Lookman.
It is less than two weeks until RB Leipzig start their season with a Europa League qualifier and they face a real baptism on matchday 1 of the new Bundesliga season when they travel to face Borussia Dortmund at the Signal Iduna Park.
The pressure is certainly on both Rangnick and Marsch to move Leipzig forward and leave incoming coach Julian Nagelsmann a team on the up, rather than one that has struggled to replicate their stellar rise. It was a massive step forward from RB Leipzig in 2016-17 followed by a step backwards in 2017-18.
Can Rangnick and Marsch get RB back into the top four? Will Julian Nagelsmann be taking a ‘step down’ when he joins Leipzig in a year? The new Bundesliga season certainly poses a number of questions for RB Leipzig.
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