RB Leipzig needs Timo Werner and Christoper Nkunku to tap How can the next manager unleash their talents?

RB Leipzig has yet to launch into the most successful campaign of the season, winning only one of his five opening matches and losing to Shakhtar Donetsk in his first Champions League game. As a result, coach Domenico Tedesco was relieved of his duties, forcing the club to start again just one month into the 2022-23 season.

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While their defense has conceded nine league goals already, their attack set a new low in their last Bundesliga game, losing 4-0 to Eintracht Frankfurt as they didn’t make a single shot on target. Last year, Tedesco entered to revitalize the three introduction that benefits the likes of Christopher NkunkoAnd the Andrew Silva And the Dominic Zuboszlaibut this season of the second round, they also brought in Timo Werner He is back after a disappointing spell at Chelsea.

Since then, the starting line-up of Nkunko and Werner has only managed to make a strong showing against Wolfsburg and is now falling rapidly. Why not work?

Tedesco’s attack in a historic season

To understand why it’s failing now, we need to get a feel for what has been effective in the past year.

Leipzig transformed from Jesse MarchThe high-intensity counterattack style reverted towards a philosophy of slow possession and Tedesco, including the highly balanced movements of the front three, made them play as they were used to by Nagelsmann. The main aspects of attack that were difficult to defend included the diversity of attacking players’ styles and characteristics. For example, the roving and technically talented Nkunku was a fast striker, Andre Silva was a striker who could relate to abilities and put a foot forward and Leipzig was the dynamic No. 10 (Dominik Szoboszlai, Emil ForsbergAnd the Danny OlmoLink the attackers to the midfield.

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Their individual strengths are so well aggregated that at any given moment in the past season, a player can drop on the flank or attack the space behind their last defensive opponent (also known as the “last line of defense”) while still being structurally balanced by their teammates. . This allowed Tedesco’s men to attack across all five lanes of the court, whether it was an advance of the ball through a pass or a long ball as they won the second ball.

Werner Introduction

Last year’s tactics, under the leadership of Tedesco, ended with Leipzig winning the German League title, and Lenkonkou qualified to qualify for the Champions League and the best player in the German League for the year. While they drew 1-1 in their first game against Stuttgart this season, they had no luck with the win, with all three working up front as expected. But in their second match, with newcomer Werner coming up against Cologne, we could see the problems festering.

As a central attacker, Werner is a highly capable option for attacking the space behind the last line of defense, where he can outpace opponents with his speed, agility and move into dangerous scoring positions. However, he is not a link player like Silva and offers a lower physical presence. The problem that came up at times in the first game that Werner and Nkunku started together is that they are similar in terms of movement and rambling and not offering much in connecting gameplay.

In many cases, Leipzig advances the ball from three back to the wing, making way for quick passes behind the opponent’s defense with Werner and Nkunko drifting wide or starting a deep run. Since player number 10 is also a very dynamic and forward-thinking player, they have no options to advance to a striker who will then catch the ball, resulting in Leipzig losing the ball or not being able to fight for the second ball.

This should not be framed simply as a “Werner problem”, but as a matter of the structure around it and the personnel required to make this effective. As we saw at DFB-Pokal, when Werner started with Silva, the attack flowed smoothly and there were solid solutions in the final third. (They were playing for a German fourth-tier team but nevertheless, 19 shots on target and the 8-0 win is still proof that this was an effective technique.) This suggests that having strikers with similar playing styles under Tedesco’s philosophies hampered. them because they can’t collect second balls or get into a constant counter-pressure structure (the act of defending after losing possession), which in turn compromises their defensive balance when they lose the ball.

How can Tedesco fix this?

As the above suggests, alternating between Nkunku and Werner was one way to fix this problem, and since it promises a long season with jams in matches and the 2022 World Cup, it’s not the worst option. However, you always invite criticism when you leave your best players on the bench and results just don’t go your way as a result.

A more realistic approach was to use Nkunku as Number 10 in the same formation instead of Olmo, who was injured for six weeks anyway, thus allowing all three of the aforementioned attackers to start together without changing the structure. The player of the season in the Bundesliga this season certainly has the skill set to play in the 10 class and will create space to play a more physically present striker, such as Silva or even Josef Poulsen, who can balance Werner and Nkonko as well as fight for second balls and provide the structure that allows them to do so.

There was also a third option, changing the formation to 3-1-4-2 with Nkunku and Werner up front, but two No. 8 players (centre center) playing behind them. This meant that Tedesco wasn’t going to have to drop any of the key starting players, and someone was behind the attackers to collect the second balls, thus balancing the structure in both attack and defense. The downside to this is that as you push more of your team up the pitch, you are more prone to counter-attacks.

Unfortunately, as we saw in Leipzig’s match against Shakhtar, Tedesco did not try any of these practical solutions and opted to play 4-2-3-1 with Silva up front, Nkunku 10 up front and Werner on the left wing. This formation did not fit the individual traits of these players. Moreover, it affected the evolving gameplay in a way that prompted players to make individual mistakes, and it seemed that they no longer had the confidence to play.

There were solutions for Tedesco, but unfortunately he couldn’t capitalize on them before his tenure at Leipzig waned with the results. Time will tell if Marco Rose can bring them back to zero, firstly, facing his old club Borussia Dortmund this weekend.