While winning the Bundesliga may be a stretch too far – talented though this Leipzig unit may be – plenty are tipping Ralph Hasenhüttl’s charges for big things in their debut top-flight campaign.
“I’m certain that Leipzig will finish the season in a single-digit position,” said Dirk Schuster, coach of FC Augsburg, whom RB beat 2-1 on Matchday 6 to climb to fifth in the standings.
If Schuster is proved correct, then the Eastern upstarts could well be playing in Europe next season: Hertha Berlin reached the third qualifying round of this term’s UEFA Europa League after a seventh-place finish last time out.
Whether or not continental qualification is achieved, a top-half finish would be a remarkable achievement for Leipzig, given that they boast a side that is on average the Bundesliga’s youngest (24.3 years).
Club captain Dominik Kaiser takes a corner against Borussia Dortmund on Matchday 2.
Such youthful exuberance, however, has been key to their early success according to centre-back Willi Orban. “We’re capable of taking points off any team,” he said after the win against Augsburg. “We’re a young group, but we have a lot of quality. Every game is an adventure for us, and we always give it our all.”
Willi Orban has impressed at the back for Leipzig so far this term.
Young they may be, but they have demonstrated a remarkable maturity and variety already this term, particularly on home turf. After swashbuckling, counter-thrusting encounters against Borussia Dortmund on Matchday 2 (Leipzig won 1-0) and Borussia Mönchengladbach on Matchday 4 (which ended 1-1), Hasenhüttl’s troops showed plenty of tactical variation to control the encounter against Augsburg, playing in a different, more dominant style and deservedly emerging 2-1 winners – maintaining their record as one of only two sides (along with FC Bayern München) to have scored in every top-flight game this season.
Plenty of that variation is down to Hasenhüttl’s nous – the Austrian proved his tactical acumen by keeping FC Ingolstadt 04 up last season against the odds.
With more resources at his disposal this term, the 49-year-old coach is thriving, and the quality of Leipzig’s bench against Augsburg underlined the club’s strength in depth: captain Dominik Kaiser, Greece centre-back Kyriakos Papadopoulos, Scotland winger Oliver Burke and Germany Under-21 striker Davie Selke all had to make do with starting on the sidelines.
Ralph Hasenhüttl’s counter-pressing style has proved a hit at the Red Bull Arena.
Indeed, Hasenhüttl made five changes against Augsburg, with that rotation keeping the young squad both hungry and fresh. Restored to the starting line-up, Yussuf Poulsen and Emil Forsberg repaid their coach’s faith by scoring the goals against Die Fuggerstädter.
How Hasenhüttl assembles his side against VfL Wolfsburg on Matchday 7 may still be a mystery, but one thing is for sure: Leipzig’s hunger for success has far from been sated, even after their record start.
Emil Forsberg has taken the step up to the Bundesliga in his stride.