RB Leipzig – How the most loathed German club has been silencing its haters

by Kaustubh Pandey

All those who have a pre-conceived notion about the Bundesliga being a boring league, the ongoing season is forcing them to think again.

It has panned out in a manner which would probably be quite different to how most would’ve predicted, going into the new season. The number of surprise packages have matched the number of teams who are underperforming.

Sides like Hoffenheim, Koln and Eintracht Frankfurt have made flying starts to the new campaign, whereas the trio of Bayer Leverkusen, Borussia Monchengladbach and Wolfsburg have has left many disappointing.

 

Barring all the shocks that have made the Bundesliga more intriguing a league than last season, the biggest one has been provided by Ralph Hassenhuttl’s RB Leipzig, who currently top the league charts.

But very few are celebrating. A majority of German football fans are fuming.

After all, for them, Leipzig aren’t a product of what German football is known for- legacy, tradition and fans’ power. In fact, it is completely detached from that.

Although, more than a majority of the season is yet to be played, but Leipzig’s style has been defining and is enough to prove that they deserve to top the pile right now.

It was never smooth sailing for Die Roten, who are the youngest club in the first division right now after taking birth only in 2009.

Formed at a time when football in Eastern Germany was on the decline and many of the renowned players were toddling off to greener pastures.

Formed out of local football club Sachsen Leipzig, the new club had to climb up through five divisions in just as many seasons since its establishment and its initial involvement in the NOFV Oberliga Sud saw them claim the title.

As promotion after promotion followed, the amount of haters that Leipzig had accumulated augmented, as a feeling of jealousy among the other clubs crept up as they passed by divisions.

While the jealousy roots from Leipzig’s rich ownership, which has helped them a lot in achieving the amount of success they’ve enjoyed, Leipzig’s intent has hardly budged.

Red Bull, which also owns MLS club New York Red Bulls and Austrian giants Red Bull Salzburg, couldn’t get similar naming rights for their Leipzig club, which is known as RasenballSport Leipzig and not Red Bull Leipzig as the German Football Association disallowed a sponsor’s name to be included in the name of the club.

Although, that itself is suggestive of the values that German football holds dear. But Leipzig ended up naming themselves “Lawn Ball Sport”, or RasenBallSport in German.

And RBL have bypassed certain rules pertaining to fan power, which all German clubs have made use of to elect their board members.

The 50+1 rule in German football allows the fans and members of the club an equal say in who becomes a part of the board. But Leipzig adhered to way that is still condemned and will continue to be condemned for years to come.

Whoever wanted to become a board member had to shell out €800, which is ten times more than the amount you’d pay to Bayern Munich, from their pockets.

 

It’s not as if the hate isn’t well visible, teams have been open enough to express their dislike for Leipzig.

In a DFB Pokal game against Dynamo Dresden at Stadion Dresden, fans from the home side had thrown a severed head of a bull onto the pitch, expressing abhorrence towards the fellow East German club.

And the discontent didn’t stop there as Hoffenheim fans unfurled offensive banners against Leizpig during the opening day of the Bundesliga season.

The banners ranged from reading :“Fortunately no one is watching this”,“Chocoshake instead of Red Bull – you a**hole”,“Money rules” to “Thanks to those f***ing energy drinks we have to diss ourselves” and “Not everyone can be a plastic club – F**k RBL”

Borussia Dortmund fans boycotted their game against Leipzig, which eventually ended in a defeat, while in September, Borussia Monchengladbach fans chose to remain silent for 19 minutes during their clash at Red Bull Arena.

After all, the abomination that the club has faced, their performance on the pitch have shown that while others are slagging them off the pitch, they’re expressing all their opposition on the pitch.

Apart from their position on the table, the approach that they have adhered to on pitch under Hasenhuttl has been very convincing indeed.

The Austrian manager, who had done a commendable job in earning a promotion with Ingolstadt and was responsible for their survival next season.

After joining Leipzig this past summer, he has imposed himself over the side in true fashion as their high-press has blunted every single opponent that they have come up against this season.

From Thomas Tuchel’s Dortmund to Roger Schmidt’s Bayer Leverkusen some days ago, Leipzig have gone through every single challenge and have passed with flying colors, apart from that of Carlo Ancelotti’s Bayern Munich.

The 4-2-2-2 formation, which is the same that Roger Schmidt has used quite often to use the impressive gegenpressing system at BayArena, deploys narrow forwards and attacking midfielders behind each other.

But the presence of ground-covering players in those players make sure that the defense is shielding by blocks of two, which dominate the game off the ball.

The narrow pressing forces the opposition to play from wide areas, but that’s a trigger for the Leipzig full back to press high up the pitch.

This disallows the opposition full-back to pick out a winger, who has been marked out and he is forced to either play it behind again or launch long-balls forward.

In attack, Leipzig ooze versatility. Depending on how the opposition has set its defense up, Leipzig change the way their attack looks.

 

One way of attacking is by using their front four as overload triggers for the two midfielders to pick out from deep. And this overload makes it tough for the opposition back four or back five to deal with so many runs being made around them.

A vertical ball from deep is enough to create havoc in such a situation.

Another way that Leipzig use to find the goals is the target-man approach, which sees Danish forward Yussef Poulsen act as the target-man up front as the dimunutive and effective Timo Werner makes off-the-ball runs to be picked out.

The former Stuttgart man, who was signed this past summer for a fee in the region of 10 million euros, has been one of Leipzig’s key assets this season in terms of goalscoring, racking up five goals and three assists so far, apart from bringing in the work-ethic of running around and closing defenders down throughout the game.

While a majority of players are well-knit to play in the system, it is the signing of Naby Keita from RB Salzburg, which is paying dividends for Hasenhuttl.

There were numerous doubts about whether the €15 million price-tag would justify the kind of performances he would put in. And the Guinean midfielder has risen to prominence in sublime fashion, proving many wrong.

His goal against Dortmund won Leipzig the game, while his brace against Werder Bremen handed Die Roten a 3-1 win.

While both Keita, Werner and some others in the side have been going about their business silently, there is a man who has been shattering many windows with his impressive showings.

Emil Forsberg, who scored a stunning Cristiano Ronaldo-esque free-kick for Sweden against France recently, has scored five goals and has grabbed just as many assists.

His recent long-range stunner against Leverkusen stood for the abilities that the dynamic midfielder possesses.

His passing panache and technical abilities are things that allow him to create opportunities for Leipzig, playing behind the two strikers.

Haters continue to launch a tirade of expletives at the table-toppers, they hardly bat an eye. And haven’t, ever since their formation.

They may have used superior finances to reach where they are and may have gone against a majority of German traditions, but you can’t deny the fact that they deserve to be at the pinnacle of footballing charts in Germany.

Their captures of capable youngsters for prices that smaller clubs can’t match may have been criticized but they’ve produced them, rather than signing them during the prime of their careers, unlike money bags such as Manchester City or Paris Saint-Germain.

With little to lose and nothing to game as well, Leipzig are ready to take the football world by storm. It’s only a question of how rather than when.

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