How have a new team done what seemed impossible?
I’ve been obsessed with this club for a while now, but I can no longer put off writing this article. 30 games into the season they have given the best performance of a newly promoted team in the Bundesliga in 51 years, and have already secured Champions League football next season. Not bad for a club that was formed in 2009 by an energy drink company.
So how have they done it? Why have they managed to do something that no team before them could do, and secure a prize that may still elude teams like Arsenal, Liverpool, and both Manchester clubs?
It would be easy to say that their personal success is down to money. Red Bull aren’t short of it, and
many Budesliga fans have accused them of buying success, but personally, I love the way they’ve spent their cash. A squad full of young, up and coming talents such as Werner, Sabitzer, Forsberg, and, most impressive of all, Naby Keïta, that didn’t cost the earth (A combined fee of just over £25 million) as opposed to what we get in the UK: over-priced and over-paid disappointments (I’m looking at you Xhaka). It’s too simple to say they’re buying success, and most of those accusations are actually because they are the only team in the Bundesliga that is in no part owned by the fans. What we in England see as an underdog story, is very different from the eyes of a fan of the Bundesliga. It’s been controversial to say the least.
However, I want to avoid that controversy as much as possible and focus on what RB do so nicely. To me, they resemble a BVB team from a few years ago: rapid and high pressing going forward; and solid without the ball in defence. They have only conceded more goals than one team this season, Munich (and really it’s cheating when you’ve got Neuer), and it really helps you win games when the other team can’t score.
Keeping the ball out though isn’t enough, and that’s where the stars of the team shine. Let’s start with the man who pulls the strings: Naby Keïta. Rapid, great at dribbling with the ball, physical, and an average pass completion rate of over 80% he’s the perfect box to box midfielder. Not only does he link the play together, but he’s also taken things into his own hands more than once scoring 8 goals from CM. Next: Forsberg. Top assister in the league; 8 goals of his own; and he’s just as quick and good on the ball as his mate Keïta; there’s not much more to it. Finally, the man who finishes it all off; Mr Timo Werner. One of the big German talents in the team, he’s lightning fast and just as good as his stats suggest with 17 goals in the league and 5 assists. I could talk about a dozen more players’ contributions and assets in this team, but I think those three sum up what is so good about RB the best.
So what’s next for Leipzig? they started the season with more than a few critics, but the best way to silence your critics is to beat them. They’ve done what no team has done for over half a century in their first seasons in their league and qualified for the Champions League, and I’m sure they will look to hold onto talent as well as bringing in more. There is some controversy regarding their eligibility for the Champions League, as UEFA guidelines state that two teams governed by the same body cannot both compete in Europe simultaneously, and Red Bull also have a team called RB Salzburg in Austria who are likely to qualify. However, given the fact Red Bull found a way around not being able to name their team “Red Bull Leipzig” due to Bundesliga regulations (opting instead for RasenBallensport Leipzig), and found a way to become the only team in the Bundesliga to be at least in part owned by their fans, I’m sure they’ll find a way around this too.