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the summer of all dangers

“Red Bull gives you wings”, the slogan of the famous energy drink brand really fits this Leipzig team. Founded in 2009, the East German club took seven seasons to climb from the 5th division to the German elite. The record in the Bundesliga for five seasons has been brilliant with the worst result being 6th place in 2017/2018 and a team which finished twice 3rd and twice 2nd. In search of a first title, RB Leipzig knows that it is difficult to beat a Bayern Munich which remains on 9 titles in a row, but it will put the means to achieve it. Faithful to their sporting logic and their philosophy, the Winged Bulls were in anticipation and targeted young profiles in order to strengthen themselves. Prepared to lose Dayot Upamecano (22) and Ibrahima Konaté (22) who respectively left for Bayern Munich (42.5 M€) and Liverpool (40 M€), Leipzig had bet on two players to replace them. First of all, Josko Gvardiol (19 years old), the young Croatian defender of Dinamo Zagreb (18.8 M€) who participated in the last Euro. Bought in the summer of 2020, he stayed for a year in his training club to develop. The second is none other than Mohamed Simakan (21) snatched from Strasbourg this winter against 15 million euros when the sale of Dayot Upamecano had just been made public. Also arrived this summer after having finished the season in Alsace, the native of Marseille will like the young Croatian join a defense which still has sacred executives with Willi Orban (28 years old), Nordi Mukiele (23 years old), Lukas Klostermann (25 years old) and Marcel Halstenberg (29 years old). Even if for the latter it is less certain.

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Indeed, if Leipzig has only lost Dayot Upamecano and Ibrahima Konaté among its executives, Marcel Halstenberg (29) and Marcel Sabitzer (27) have only one year of contract left. Priority files, especially since the last one does not seem oriented towards an extension and could leave this summer. These two players are precious in the locker room and all the more so for Marcel Sabitzer who was Julian Nagelsmann’s key man with Emil Forsberg, last season, at the creation. Borussia Dortmund (which is also interested in Halstenberg), Tottenham, Arsenal, Rome or even AC Milan have been closely or remotely linked to the Austrian. Again, Leipzig’s planning made it possible to anticipate a possible departure of Marcel Sabitzer since the Hungarian nugget Dominik Szoboszlai (20) should be reinstated for the start of the season and will play an important role this year. It must also be said that he will find his former coach Jesse Marsch on the bench, who took over from Julian Nagelsmann who left for Bayern Munich. The latter’s loss could have been a big setback for Leipzig, but the club couldn’t really find better than Jesse Marsch, who was bottled up at Red Bull. Considered gifted, the 47-year-old American technician coached the New York Red Bulls from 2015 to 2018 before flying to Leipzig in 2018 to spend a year as Ralf Rangnick’s assistant. Thus, he has already worked with 14 (16 if we count Dominik Szboszlai and Hee-chan Hwang whom he had under his orders in Salzburg) of the 31 players who make up the professional group of Leipzig.

A new coach stamped Red Bull, a reinforced attack

Crowned with two Austrian championship titles, specializing in the development of young talents and accustomed to the Red Bull sphere, Jesse Marsch is a follower of 4-4-2. Thus, if the three-man system used under Julian Nagelsmann could be kept and readapted, we risk experiencing a tactical evolution in Leipzig next year. It takes time and Jesse Marsch is aware of that. He has already made his team face up to their responsibilities to quickly get up to speed during the preparation, as he explained to Sky Germany : “In the end, we should have more tactical clarity, without the ball, with the ball and in set pieces. But I also told the guys: the most important thing is team spirit and solidarity in the group. Our team is divided into four groups every day and we always have a competition in which we fight against each other. Sometimes it’s a fun exercise and sometimes it’s a tournament. It’s always about helping each other and having fun doing it. It’s going well for the first few days, but we still have more to do. To achieve his goals, he can rely on an unchanged midfield boosted by the return from injury of Dominik Szoboszlai, but also a reinforced attack.

Best defense of the last Bundesliga exercise with 32 goals conceded (12 less than Bayern Munich), Leipzig has less compared offensively with 60 goals in 34 matches. The figure is quite low for a title contender and made it the 6th attack behind Wolfsburg (61), Borussia Mönchengladbach (64), Eintracht Frankfurt (69), Borussia Dortmund (75) and especially Bayern Munich ( 99). In this context, the return to two points as was done under Ralf Rangnick and Ralph Hasenhüttl should be beneficial to players like Hee-chan Hwang and Yussuf Poulsen who suffered last year, but also Christopher Nkunku or Dani Olmo who can play as a false nine around a true point. Leipzig’s tactical flexibility has always been a strength and in addition two solid players have landed. First Brian Brobbey (19) who arrives free from Ajax Amsterdam where he will have been prominent this season. Then, André Silva (25) who is the second top scorer of the last Bundesliga season (28 goals in 32 matches and also 8 assists) and revived at Eintracht Frankfurt. Orphan of a player capable of scoring more than 20 league goals since the departure of Timo Werner for Chelsea, Leipzig may have found this player with André Silva.

Leipzig have also got their hands on American attacking midfielder Caden Clark (18), who will arrive this winter from the New York Red Bulls. With less certainty than last year, but with a greater strike force, RB Leipzig can therefore dream big. This is also the creed of Jesse Marsch who thinks he can do great things with this team: “I think the current squad is the best and strongest we’ve ever had in Leipzig. This competition in the team must be an advantage and not a disadvantage for us. We need support within the group. I think we can do it and the quality of the team is definitely an advantage for us. To definitely reach the Champions League is a minimum for us. Another goal is to fight for a title. I know it’s not so nice here in Germany to publicly announce such big goals, but I came to Leipzig to win.” The message is strong from Jesse Marsch. Successor of Julian Nagelsmann in Leipzig, he will not hesitate to take the place of German champion from him if the opportunity arises.

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