Just months after their DFB Pokal triumph, the problems are mounting for RB Leipzig as their start to the Bundesliga season falters and the mood around the club sours. A crushing 4-0 defeat at the hands of Eintracht Frankfurt on Saturday was the latest blow which leaves them with just one win and five points from the opening five matchdays.
“The loss was deserved. We didn’t get the basics right and weren’t aggressive at all.” Coach Domenico Tedesco said after the loss to Frankfurt. “We wanted to secure possession after our pressing but lost it very quickly. We used three different systems today and it wasn’t effective.”
Club CEO Oliver Mintzlaff had already commented after matchday 2 that it had been “a shitty start”, so just what must he be thinking right now about the state of play at the Red Bull Arena. With the Champions League starting next week, RB look far from one of Europe’s finest.
So, what are the issues at Leipzig?
Oliver Mintzlaff must take some of the blame for the ongoing issue regarding the lack of a sporting director at the club. The club have had to row back on earlier claims that Max Eberl was going to take on the role in December with his former/current(?) employers Borussia Mönchengladbach putting a halt on proceedings.
The squad itself are the ones not performing on the pitch and the composition of the squad itself is another issue that could be a contributing factor. The squad looks imbalanced and Tedesco at times is having to put square pegs in round holes on his team sheet. For example, against Köln Dominik Szoboszlai and Benjamin Henrichs formed the ‘double six’ in midfield.
Leipzig signed Xaver Schlager in the summer, but his game time has been limited thus far. Timo Werner came in from Chelsea with emotion playing a role perhaps more than sporting logic. David Raum joined from Hoffenheim with Angelino (a very similar player) going in the opposite direction. On paper the incoming players are good, but were they what RB Leipzig needed?
The club did manage to get Christopher Nkunku to sign a new contract, but the details behind it remain largely unknown. Have clauses been built it to allow him to leave next summer with the right offer? The same goes for Josko Gvardiol. The squad is top heavy with attacking players, but only has one right fullback. The three centre backs Willi Orban, Mohamed Simakan and Gvardiol have little cover.
On the pitch, Leipzig’s usual pressing and counter-pressing has not functioned with both Union Berlin goals in the 2-1 defeat clearly highlighting this. Köln and VfB Stuttgart also scored goals you wouldn’t normally associate with an RB side.
Jesse Marsch paid the price last season, when the players struggled to adapt to his ideas as he tried to ween them away from the possession-based game they had been used to under Julian Nagelsmann. At the time he mentioned that the players struggled with the mentality needed to implement his playing philosophy. Tedesco came in a turned things around (Champions League qualification) but how much of the success towards the end of last season was down to individual brilliance (Christopher Nkunku)?
While not a crisis, Tedesco is such an admitted perfectionist that the current situation will gall him. The fact that Leipzig are already seven points off the leaders will also be galling as will be the manner of the heavy loss at Frankfurt, which was a ‘comfortable’ 4-0.
Following their midweek clash with Shakhtar Donetsk in Europe they host Borussia Dortmund before travelling to Borussia Mönchengladbach so two very tricky encounters. There needs to be a reaction from the team before the reaction comes from CEO Oliver Mintzlaff in terms of another verbal outburst or a change in the coach.