Teaser: How Julian Nagelsmann and RB Leipzig are pulling off a miracle, yet again

the midfield diamond concept opens up new possibilities

This is a teaser of the in-depth analysis released yesterday. To read the entire thing (about 2600 words), please


It contains the following:

  1. -how Nagelsmann’s track record in replacing stars will help Leipzig compensate for Werner

  2. -changes in his style towards more possession

  3. -the role of the CBs

  4. -Angelino as the new Nico Schulz

  5. -the midfield diamond’s effectiveness vs deep-sitting teams

  6. -Dani Olmo’s breakout season and Forsberg’s rejuvenation

5. Midfield - diamonds over boxes

Settling on a midfield personnel isn’t really Nagelsmann’s style, though it’s hard to blame him: the coach has had to deal with zero minutes from last season’s makeshift pressing monster double pivot Sabitzer-Laimer (injured) so in addition to Werner+Schick that’s now 64 goals and 30 assists missing. What that meant is the return of the central midfield problem of last season:

This is especially relevant when it comes to unlocking the teams that were happy to cede possession to Leipzig, as opposed to pressing them high\getting involved in a transition-track meet. Wolfsburg were one of the many teams that got a result vs Leipzig’s 343 by defending in a compact, ball-oriented 442. In particular the Sabitzer\Laimer double pivot was often engulfed in this midfield box between the two strikers and the two DMs of Wolfsburg.

One solution, and this was somewhat true when Kevin Kampl was fit to play in parts of last season, is to use a diamond structure with single pivot (Tyler Adams this season) and two 8s - the versatile Benni Henrichs and the tricky\creative Christopher Nkunku featured here a lot, but Dani Olmo who often switched with Forsberg at the top of the diamond can also occupy this space. In truth, the person is less important than the occupation of the zone.

Against the first line, Leipzig’s 3 CBs already have a 3v2, while this diamond creates a 4v2 or a 4v3 with depth and width, should the opponent defend in a 523\532 like Schalke did here.

One team that figured out an answer against this was Bayer Leverkusen in the first half, by matching the diamond in a 4-3-3:

-3 forwards in the first line negate the numerical superiority in the back 3

-3 midfielders defend the base of the diamond and the two 8s, while a quick CB like Tapsoba can step up to the tip of it

It’s not a coincidence that Leipzig mostly tried to just play longer balls over the press, with Poulsen knocking it down to Forsberg for a great individual goal. The reason we know Peter Bosz’ tactic worked was the season low 0.8 xG (2.2 per match so far, 2.1 last season)

and Nagelsmann needing to switch to a back 4 at halftime.

It should be interesting see how other teams try to cope with Nagelsmann’s midfield. In particular, the upcoming matches against Gladbach and PSG should be fascinating from this point of view.

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Thanks for reading, will be back with more Bundesliga team analysis and maybe something from the European competitions this week.