Tactical Report: RB Leipzig Gives You Wings

By Daniel Muñoz

24-November-2020 on Analysis

11 minute read

Daniel Muñoz, tactical analyst at Real Betis for several seasons, collaborates with Nacsport to analyse some of the best football teams in Europe. This week he delves into current rising stars in German and European football, RB Leipzig.


Note: This article was translated from Spanish and pics are captioned in Spanish. We have provided a translation for captions in italics beneath each picture.

There’s no denying that RB Leipzig had a brilliant season last year. Not only did they finish 3rd in the Bundesliga, just behind Bayern Munich and Borussia Dortmund, but they also had a spectacular run in the Champions League, eliminating huge teams like Atletico Madrid and Tottenham, before being stopped in the semi-finals by PSG.


And this run of form seems to be continuing into the season. Currently they’re sitting 4th in the Bundesliga, two points behind league leaders Bayern Munich, and are joint second (ignoring goal difference) in their Champions League group, which contains footballing giants PSG and Manchester United.


Not bad for a team that, until a few short years ago, were completely unknown in the realms of professional football!


RB Leipzig Champions League Standings


Current standings in Group H of Champions League


Under young coach, Julian Naggelsmann, aged just 33 years old, they have conceded no more than 6 goals so far this season and have the 3rd best goal scoring average in the Bundesliga. They’re also the youngest team in the league with an average age of 23.8 between them.


Let’s see some of their recent results:


Match 6. Monchengladbach 1 - 0 RB Leipzig (only defeat in the league)

Match 3. Champions League. RB Leipzig 2 - 1 PSG


Match 7. RB Leipzig 3 - 0 Freiburg


Match 8. Frankfurt 1 - 1 RB Leipzig


Tactical Report: RB Leipzig 2


Current standings in the Bundesliga


So what factors are driving this young club to earn the respect of some of Europe’s grand old clubs?


The System


Leipzig play with a system which is both versatile and variable. As a general rule of thumb, they start from 4-2-3-1 formation which occasionally warps into 3-5-2. 



Vertical and Mobile in Attack


Leipzig’s offensive phase is highlighted by their positioning from which their organised mobility begins. Starting with a pronounced width and depth where speed and quick movement of the ball are the order of the day, with verticality once they break through into the opponent’s half.


Tactical Report: RB Leipzig 3


4-2-3-1 system


At the beginning of a play, when restarting from a goal kick, they’re positioning is quite distinctive with the two central defenders at either side of the keeper and the two wing backs out wide in a staggered formation with two central midfielders just inside them.


The objective here is two generate passing lanes and leave options for building the game from the back, predominantly up the wings.


Tactical Report: RB Leipzig 4


Positioning for goalkick


To apply pressure in their own half, the opposition would have to go armed with numerous players and, even doing so, Leipzig are happy to pull back their forwards (9. Poulsen and 19. Sorloth) to even up the numbers.


Tactical Report: RB Leipzig 5


Positioning of forwards when there is parity of numbers up front


Breadth and depth are key to Leipzig’s offense, with the wingers playing a key role. Both wingers are constantly pushing up with the wings supporting them from either behind or inside.


Tactical Report: RB Leipzig 6


Width and depth


Tactical Report: RB Leipzig 7


Wing back and winger alternate positions with differing width


The positioning of the wingers and the mobility of their attacking midfielder (either 10. Forsberg or 25. Olmo) generates space which they don’t hesitate to take advantage of with players constantly popping up to create passing lanes.


Tactical Report: RB Leipzig 8


Symmetry on the wings and players between the lines


Tactical Report: RB Leipzig 9


Creation of space and making use of it


Their attackers continually provide possibilities to the player with the ball, giving options to support or rupture defences, highlighting their rapid vertical movements.


Tactical Report: RB Leipzig 10


Mobility to lose marker and rupture defences


They arrive in the opposing box with many players in tow, both inside the area and outside, where the wingbacks appear to create numerical superiority and serve the ball into the box for the strikers to finish off.


Tactical Report: RB Leipzig 11


Arriving at the business end of the park


Tactical Report: RB Leipzig 12


Midfielders presence in the box


Offensive transitions are one of their greatest virtues and they turn and attack rapidly. The wingers in particular are experts in finding space to attack backed up by the attacking midfielder.


Tactical Report: RB Leipzig 13


Verticality after recovering the ball


A Brave and Variable Defense


Lining up as a 4-2-3-1 in defence, they are characterised by their bravery, always attempting to defend as far up the field as possible. The intention here is to steal the ball in their opponent’s half and transition quickly to attack mode. To do this they can mark individually or in zones, although this usually starts with zone marking to man.


They want to apply pressure constantly and they often push the attacking midfielder up into attack with the central midfielder squaring up to the opponent in the same position, turning the formation into a 4-4-2.


Tactical Report: RB Leipzig 14


Pressure from 4-4-2


To avoid making central midfield the first pressure zone, they close the inside lanes, forcing the opposition out to the wings where they intensify the pressure.


If this pressure is overcome, they withdraw and reform their lines, returning to their original formation, but always looking to return to pushing towards the opposing team. This is not a team comfortable with retreat.


Tactical Report: RB Leipzig 15


All illustrations in this article have been created using KlipDraw


Activating the defensive stage after losing the ball is one of their biggest virtues. When they give the ball away, they accumulate players close to the keeper, forcing the opponent to make mistakes or winning the ball back. Their central defenders work well in situations where they have numerical superiority or parity. It’s important for them to win battles, recover the ball and continue into offense.


Tactical Report: RB Leipzig 16


Putting pressure on after losing the ball


Tactical Report: RB Leipzig 17


Keeping the numerical advantage


Keys to Success


• Their wealth of talent and bravery in offence. They like to be the protagonists of the game, with the constant intention of generating goal scoring situations.

• The activation of defence as soon as they lose the ball, they have the mechanisms in place to activate quickly, and the importance of their constant vigilance.


• The belief and work of the coach, in creating an attractive and enriching model for this young team, which continues to evolve and yield results.


• The ambition of a team capable of being amongst the giants of European football.

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