As the anticipation builds ahead of the new 2019/20 Bundesliga season, attention turns to the prospects of the 18 top flight German sides and what the coming campaign has in store. Here at the Bundesliga Fanatic we preview the new season by asking five questions of the major protagonists. Next up RB Leipzig.
1. Are RB Leipzig and Julian Nagelsmann a match made in heaven?
There is no doubt that Nagelsmann has made a huge impact in the Bundesliga despite his age and the same goes for RB Leipzig. Now the two are together are we to expect something special from the Saxony side?
Having finished second, sixth and third in their first three seasons of Bundesliga football and constructed a young and talented squad, Leipzig are perfectly placed to push Borussia Dortmund as competitors to topple Bayern Munich.
They finished 12 points behind the Bavarian champions last season, but the new trainer believes his side can challenge Bayern for the title telling Kicker recently; “I think we’re all already in a position to challenge Bayern. But it’s not only Bayern – there are lot of interesting teams this year, with a lot of new coaches and changes.”
It will be interesting to see how Nagelsmann blends Leipzig’s high tempo pressing game with his possession based philosophy. How will RB adapt to a new 3-4-1-2 formation? Managing the demands of Champions League football will also be a point to watch out for.
The young coach has already shown at Hoffenheim that he can bring success on a smaller budget and with a squad not as talented on paper as that of Leipzig.
Much depends on what defines ‘success’ for Leipzig this season. Is a top three finish and renewed Champions League qualification enough? Or are the expectations starting to increase with real tilt at the title expected?
Whatever the parameters, it isn’t hard to argue that Nagelsmann is the perfect coach to take them forward.
2. How will the Timo Werner situation play out?
The situation regarding Timo Werner remains precarious at the time of writing. The 23-year-old has thus far not committed to signing a new contract with Leipzig leaving himself open to an approach from Bayern Munich, and leaving RB in danger of his contract running out next summer.
RB’s CEO Oliver Mintzlaff has seemingly issued a semi-ultimatum in an interview with Goal. “It is desirable that we have a solution before the start of the league, and we can and want to comply with this timing.
“We are in constructive and good talks that will lead to a result. We have presented a contract offer to Timo and his consultant, we stand to that and we do not need to improve it.”
The Bayern Munich speculation remains, but should the champions actually sign Leroy Sane from Manchester City, it would seem highly doubtful that they would also splash out on Werner this summer. However, with the Sane deal now looking unlikely due to his injury, Bayern could pounce.
It would be more prudent to wait and pick up the German international striker for free next year. Leipzig on the other hand will not be happy to allow this situation to pan out.
3. Can Leipzig’s defence stay as mean this season?
Last season saw the RB Leipzig back four emerging as the meanest defence in the entire Bundesliga conceding just 29 goals. The emergence of Ibrahima Konaté proved to be the revelation of the season and he formed a pretty settled unit alongside captain Wili Orban and fullbacks Marcel Halstenberg and Lukas Klostermann.
Peter Gulácsi in goal was imperious providing an excellent shield for the few occasions that the back four were caught out. Both Gulácsi and Orban were voted into Kicker’s ‘Team of the Season’.
Between matchdays 6 and 12 last season Leipzig went 500 minutes without conceding a goal. They kept 16 clean sheets all season, with ten of those coming at home at the Red Bull Arena.
It will be interesting to see how RB fare as they change to Julian Nagelsmann’s preferred back three. A trio of Orban, Konaté and Dayot Upamecano would be the envy of any side.
4. How should Leipzig’s summer transfer business be judged?
RB were never going to crack out a spectacular transfer like that of €80 million Lucas Hernandez at Bayern, but once again have stuck to their principles of signing young talents under the age of 24.
The players brought in all have the talent and potential to make an impact this season, although they will have to bide their time if they want to make a starting berth their own as none of the new arrivals will walk straight into the side.
The biggest fee was the €18 million paid to Everton for the permanent signing of winger Ademola Lookman. He impressed on loan during the 2017/18 season, but RB were unable to prise away from England last season. Persistence has however paid off.
Christopher Nkunku has arrived from PSG to add to the French contingent at RB. He has been compared to Julian Brandt in style and has had a similar transition from outright winger into a more central attacking midfielder. Competition for Emil Forsberg it would seem.
Brazilian left back Luan Candido will offer an alternative to both Halstenberg and Marcelo Saracchi, although having not made a single first-team appearance for former club Palmeiras, he’s one more for the future.
Midfielder Hannes Wolf from Red Bull Salzburg with provide an alternative in the middle, whereas 18-year-old Welsh centreback Ethan Ampadu on loan from Chelsea will be looking to be the next import from the Uk to impress in the Bundesliga.
So nothing spectacular from Leipzig, but more solid investment in players that can be nurtured and developed.
5. Will the hand of Ralf Rangnick still be felt?
He may have officially moved on to a new position as ‘Head of Sport and Development Soccer’ to oversee RB, New York Red Bulls and Brazilian third tier side Bragantino, but the shadow of Ralf Rangnick will be cast over Julian Nagelsmann this season.
For seven years Rangnick has overseen the rise of Leipzig and May find it difficult to let go. He was present at the team’s first training session under Nagelsmann and also at the first pre-season friendly against FC Zürich.
He will have a busy schedule as he divides his time between Europe, the US and Brazil, but you can rest assured that he won’t be letting his beloved RB Leipzig stray to far from his mind.
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