Germany doesn’t particularly like it but there’s no denying that RasenBallsport Leipzig have nailed exactly how to create a football club.
Loathed for not being a traditional Deutschland club, having been born by drinks company Red Bull in 2009, they lead the Bundesliga having been unbeaten so far this season. They invested in a young, exciting squad with the potential to grow, either as part of the team or to sell on, and have also ploughed money into state-of-the-art facilities themselves to grow as a club themselves.
If you want to learn a little more, check out this great piece by Ross Dunbar on Fox Sports Asia here.
However, what they have done in the past is not what I wanted to focus on. Having watched them on TV once or twice, finally seeing them against Bayer Leverkusen live a few weeks ago just confirmed it: Ralph Hasenhuttl, along with sporting director Ralf Rangnick, have created a side that are genuine title contenders at the time of writing.
A team doesn’t remain this long unbeaten by just luck alone. Wins at home to Borussia Dortmund and away at the aforementioned Leverkusen only confirms it and when you look into how they have succeed, it becomes much clearer.
They’ve scored as many goals as BvB, they have only conceded more than Bayern Munich and another surprise package in Cologne and they have created entertainment wherever they go. They are fast, they are creative, they are strong and when on song, they can be electric.
The real engine of the Leipzig machine is Swedish international Emil Forsberg. A relative unknown on the European scene with his former club Malmo, the 25-year-old has exploded this season as the main man for RB with five goals and seven assists.
Those statlines are impressive enough but when you watch Forsberg play, you understand his influence. He’s an incredibly clever player always looking for avenues to bring the abundance of quick, dangerous attacking players that are around him into areas that hurt the opposition.
The Swede always plays with his head up, eyes wandering to find an avenue to attack an opponent. He has wonderful close ball control, a surprising burst that allows him to seemingly drift past tackles and a wand for a foot that can either pick a locked defence or waft a set piece into the goal.
It’s not hard to say without him, it’s unlikely that Leipzig would still be unbeaten. He is the real heartbeat, piecing together their stern defence and their frightening attack to create a real behemoth that no one has worked out how to stop.
That’s not to say he’s the only one firing on all cylinders. Naby Keita has been superb in a box-to-box role, seemingly popping up all over the pitch to break up play and occasionally break into the final third, where he has picked up four goals so far.
Their defence is marshalled by Willy Orban, who has organised them well with his power and positioning into the joint-second best defence in the Bundesliga. They have a scary front that includes top scorer Timo Werner, Austrian winger Marcel Sabitzer, Danish striker Yussuf Poulsen, former Werder Bremen man Davie Selke and Scottish international Oliver Burke.
The amount of options they have in those attacking areas are staggering, especially when you then look at the stats. Each has scored and assisted at least once, with Werner excelling with seven goals and two assists. That’s not to diminish Sabitzer’s contribution of four goals and three assists or Burke’s goal and two assists from predominantly substitute appearances.
With that said, they could do with more from either Poulsen or Selke in terms of hitting the back of the net but their size and power really compliment the speed and creativity around them. It’s genuinely scary that the main strikers aren’t quite firing and yet they still lead the standings.
Hastenhuttl has also established an exciting style build on a collective strength based on restricting the opponent. They constrict the opponent when they have the ball, boxing them into a small area without easy options and can restrict them to the point of them giving them the ball, allowing them to use Forsberg and their pace to counter.
Where they need to improve in that regard is to work on being countered themselves and stopping teams playing quickly against them. When they are not allowed to settle into their structure, they can be opened up a little too easily and quick play has seen teams get in behind their defence too often.
That still feels like nit-picking on a fantastic start to the season that was built upon solid foundations that should help grow success in the future. While the next stage of their success will be in the air for a while, producing talent of your own in any club changing its culture can take five-to-ten years to bear fruit but they have started on the right track.
They have a real project that is attracting young players wishing to create their own history and if they can keep them on-board to maintain this start, we could have a new name near the head of the Bundesliga table for years to come.