RB Leipzig - 2016-17 Bundesliga Season Preview: Bulls brimming with confidence

Bundesliga newcomers Leipzig have a tough challenge at hand.

RB Leipzig - 2016-17 Bundesliga Season Preview: Bulls brimming with confidence
Image credit: VAVEL

RasenBallsport Leipzig, which happens to be arguably the most loathed German club in the land, has made its mark in a strong fashion now. Their journey from the third division of the country to first, hasn't been a likeable rise to prominence, unlike any other small club which has achieved the same.

The usage of money in their approach to garnering success is something the working class Germans aren't accustomed to witnessing. Considering the working class roots of a majority of German football clubs, there's this tag of being a club that buys success is appended to RB Leipzig's name.

Money has helped Leipzig in achieving what they have today on their plate today- compete in their maiden Bundesliga season. After finishing second behind SC Freiburg in the 2. Bundesliga last season, Ralph Hasenhüttl will look to pull off something special with the Red Bull Arena club.  The upcoming Bundesliga season will present Leipzig with an opportunity to prove their might, like it or not.

Last season

Freiburg, who finished five points ahead of Leipzig last season, succeeded in remaining unbeaten against RBL throughout the campaign, losing just six games as compared to Leipzig's seven.  But a second placed finish was a much needed and required improvement to the state of affairs after finishing fifth in the 2014-15 season right after earning promotion from the third division of German football.

21-year-old Davie Selke, who joined Leipzig from Werder Bremen in 2015 for a €8m fee, racked up 10 goals and amassed a tally of three assists to help his side achieve promotion. The contributions of Yussuf Poulsen, Emil Frosberg and Marcel Sabitzer came in just as handy as the trio played their part in guiding the side to the second spot.

Davie Selke has been impressive for RBL. Photo: Bundesliga.com
Davie Selke has been impressive for RBL. Photo: Bundesliga.com

Exciting arrivals

An attempt has been made to ameliorate the overall quality of the side, which is something most clubs do once they end up entering the top flight of any country's football. Leipzig have spent a good amount of money, which is quite obvious, to make sure that they don't fall short when going head to head with top flight opposition.

Naby Keita has been roped in from Red Bull Salzburg for a €11m fee and would certainly add more venom to the midfield, alongside dynamo Diego Demme.

The capture of Timo Werner, who was being tracked a host of German and foreign clubs, stands out for Leipzig as the youngster is someone who brings in a lot of energy, pace and drive.  The young German is known to be one of the best youngsters in the Bundesliga right now and following the relegation of VfB Stuttgart last season, the winger moved on after impressing during his stint at die Roten.

The acquisitions of Marius Müller from Kaiserslautern and that of Benno Schmitz from Salzburg goes to show that money is being invested more on potential than on current abilities, which would certainly act as a propelling factor for Leipzig during the upcoming season.

Georg Teigl and Stefan Hierlander, who played bit part roles last season, have been offloaded for free after their deals ran out at the end of the season.

Pre-season campaign

In what was a rather unchallenging run of games, Leipzig succeeded in remaining unbeaten throughout their pre-season. Starting with Markanstadt away from home, Leipzig won every game of theirs barring the 0-0 draw against Serie A side Torino, the entertaining 4-4 draw against FC Liefering and the recent 1-1 stalemate at home to Real Betis.

The high-scoring games do bring to the fore a certain amount of guile in front of goal, but do bring out some correctable negatives too. Leipzig conceded seven goals in the last three games of pre-season, scoring eight times. Out of the last three games, two saw Leipzig take on fellow first division competitors from Italy and Spain, against whom they conceded once but scored just as many times. 

Objectives for the upcoming season

For a side that is new to the league, the immediate objective is to avoid relegation in one way or another. On paper, Leipzig's side looks good enough to avoid relegation and challenge the likes of 1.FC Köln and Werder Bremen in the mid-table position of the Bundesliga. It is quite likely that they do some late business in the window, with the side having bolstered itself in all positions barring the central defense. 

A mid table finish would not necessarily mean performing beyond expectations or doing the unthinkable as the side is well capable of accomplishing this, considering the goals that it oozes with Davie Selke and Yussuf Poulsen in the side.

The upcoming campaign will be Leipzig's first taste of the Bundesliga, which is something they have been striving to achieve ever since the investment came in. This isn't just the emergence of a club, this is seen more as the emergence of a powerhouse club from East Germany, which has slowly become a subject to the dominance of the other parts of the country as innumerable upcoming players were rooted up by the bigger clubs of the West.

More so, the Eastern part of the country consists of cities which are less developed than those from the West, adding to the reasons of why it is still lagging behind the West in Germany. Leipzig will head into the season, carrying a considerable amount of burden on their shoulders, which is something money has helped get rid of in some ways. 

Areas of concern?

One thing that Leipzig currently lack that is of importance in the top division is team depth. Marcel Halstenberg looked good in the pre-season, while the experience of Marvin Compper will come in handy too. Lukas Klostermann and Willi Orban are two of the most promising talents at their age, but after that it is a bit hit and miss.

Even up front, any absence of the impressive trio of Poulsen, Selke and Forsberg, the side will suffer in some sense in terms of creativity and goals. The acquisition of Timo Werner will help, but Hasenhüttl needs a bit more than the youngster himself.

As mentioned above, there are defensive concerns that need addressing and business has to be done late in the window to bolster the side more than what it takes to go past the finishing line.

Hasenhüttl has a big challenge on his hands. Photo: SportBILD
Hasenhüttl has a big challenge on his hands. Photo: SportBILD

Ralph Hasenhüttl to replicate his Ingolstadt structure?

Since joining this past May, Hasenhüttl has so far not succeeded in bringing in the defensive solidarity that his Ingolstadt side was based on during their promotion campaign to the Bundesliga in the 2014-15 season, but it will certainly improve with time.

Ingolstadt's success was compared to that of Leicester City last season, not because of their achievement but because of the similarity in approach to the game. It involves not giving the opposition any spaces in the defence, including intense pressing at the right time. Hasenhüttl's Ingolstadt had conceded less amount of goals only to Borussia Dortmund and Bayern Munich, bringing to the fore the amount of focus that Hasenhüttl lays on defensive shape and organisation.

The approach involves winning the ball in advanced areas and counter-attacking with pace, which is a result of the pressing that the Bundesliga clubs are well known for. Hasenhüttl will adhere to a similar style, which is something that has made him what he is today.

Key Players

Davie Selke, who has been doing very well in the Olympics for Germany alongside Nils Petersen and Serge Gnabry, would be more than just vital when it comes to scoring goals regularly. His tally of ten goals would have to increase, if he is to reach the potential that is expected from him.

Emil Forsberg, who found the net eight times and assisted seven times last season, would be just as important when it comes to supplying Selke with the goods to find the back of the net. The 24-year-old left winger emerged as a target for Liverpool and Everton last January and he would have to justify his price-tag this season.

Where could they finish?

The season's going to be a long and tough one for Leipzig, who, under Hasenhüttl will look to avoid relegation before anything else. Having players who are willing to work hard and have their socks pulled up for everything the manager says, will succeed in this system and the players that Hasenhüttl has at his disposal are built in that mould.

1. FSV Mainz 05, Wolfsburg, Werder Bremen and Hertha BSC will finish above them considering the business they have pulled off and their existing side. The likes of Köln, newly promoted Freiburg, Ingolstadt, last season's relegation survivors Eintracht Frankfurt and SV Darmstadt 98 will look to finish in the mid-table, along with Leipzig, who have an experienced manager in that regard at the club.

It is certainly tough to put a hand on a card of numbers 1 to 18 and predict the finish, but I predict Leipzig to finish 13th in the Bundesliga next season.