With Bayern Munich the clear favorites to claim an eighth successive Bundesliga title in 2019/20, much of the interest will be focused on their closest challengers such as RB Leipzig. Can they continue their dramatic rise and secure a national title just over a decade after being formed?
They finished runners-up in their debut campaign in the Bundesliga, and in May of this year, they reached the final of the German Cup for the first time, only to lose 3-0 to Bayern for whom Polish striker Robert Lewandowski netted twice. Heading into 2019/20, German Bundesliga odds show RB Leipzig as the third favorites at 16/1. Bayern Munich are 1/4, Borussia Dortmund 4/1 and Bayer Leverkusen 40/1.
For many fans of the Bundesliga, the performance of RB Leipzig’s new young coach Julian Nagelsmann will create plenty of interest this season. At the age of 32, Nagelsmann takes over the reins having enjoyed three seasons at 1899 Hoffenheim. In his opening two campaigns at Hoffenheim, he led the club into the Champions League, thanks to finishes of fourth and third.
This was followed by a slightly disappointing ninth-place finish in 2018/19, but this may have been influenced by the club announcing in June 2018 that Nagelsmann would be leaving Hoffenheim at the end of the season. However, one milestone was reached on January 19th of this year when Nagelsmann made his 100th league appearance as Hoffenheim coach – the youngest ever to reach this figure in Germany’s top flight.
Nagelsmann is renowned for his analysis, and his players have certainly bought into his scientific approach. During training he uses a giant screen to illustrate his points, showing players video footage of themselves on the field of play. He uses the screen to show where they can improve, whether taking part in a training drill or practice match. According to newspaper reports, Nagelsmann sits in a small tower where he can instruct and coach his squad. Four cameras are used to record these training sessions with Nagelsmann using an iPad to control content on the giant screen.
Nagelsmann, who says Johan Cruyff and Pep Guardiola are his footballing heroes, developed his ideas while at university, which he attended after his career was ended by injury at the age 20. He started by studying Business Administration, before switching to Sports Science and later went into coaching.
During pre-season, he has made six signings, which include 18-year-old Ethan Ampadu who joins on loan from Chelsea. Winger Ademola Lookman arrives from Everton for £16.2m, Leipzig’s biggest spend of the summer. The next two biggest outgoings were for Christopher Nkunku (£11.7m from Paris St Germain) and Hannes Wolf (£10.8m from Austrian club RB Salzburg) – both midfielders. Of the six, there was only over the age of the 21 as they continue their policy of bringing in talented youngsters to develop tactically and technically, with the option of selling them on for large fees if needed.
Nagelsmann, who favours the tactics of possession and a high-pressing game when his team does not have the ball – similar to his hero Guardiola – will have his work cut out as he tries to deny Bayern a 16th Bundesliga title in 22 seasons.