LIVERPOOL VS LEIPZIG: AN IN-DEPTH ANALYSIS OF NAGELSMANN'S TACTICS
Jurgen Klopp's struggling Liverpool head to Hungary to face fellow German, Julian Nagelsmann's RB Leipzig in the Champions League today in a massive game.
Julian Nagelsmann's managerial career has been eventful thus far despite being 33 years of age. He cut his playing career short due to a knee injury. After his early retirement, the young German would work with current Chelsea boss Thomas Tuchel as a scout in the first half of 2008
Nagelsmann would take the reigns at Hoffenheim at the tender age of 28. After avoiding relegation with Hoffenheim in his first season, he would guide them to the Champions League for the first time in their history.
Nagelsmann and Hoffenheim decided to part ways at the end of the 2018–19 season. (It was then the newly formed German club, RB Leipzig came calling for the young coach.
He guided Leipzig to the Champions League Semi-Finals last year but would lose to French heavyweights, Paris Saint Germain.
Liverpool head to Hungary to face a Leipzig side full of confidence, who currently lie four points behind Bayern Munich in the Bundesliga this season.
30 per cent of coaching is tactics, 70 per cent social competence.
"At this level, the quality of the players at your disposal will ensure that you play well within a good tactical set-up – if the psychological condition is right." said Nagelsmann in an interview.
Julian Nagelsmann has been labelled mini-Mourinho by his peers. His work in Germany hasn't gone unnoticed, and in this piece, I will highlight what Liverpool should expect when they come up against his Leipzig side.
Leipzig under Julian Nagelsmann are tactically astute and can switch to several formations like a 4-3-3, 4-4-2 base and variations of 3-4-3 or 3-5-2. However, the German can sometimes go with a 3-4-2-1 in attack and a 4-2-3-1 in defence against Manchester United and Atlético Madrid. When Timo Werner left to join Chelsea this summer, It was up to the German to build his playing style without him.
Depending on if Leipzig have gone with a back four or three, the fullbacks, or wingbacks, will tend to move very high in the buildup. You may have seen this when up against Manchester United in the group stage, left wing-back Angelino was left unmarked by Aaron Wan Bissaka to score an early goal.
Leipzig will push Liverpool fullback's Trent-Alexander-Arnold and Andy Robertson back, which creates space centrally that RB Leipzig will exploit to progress the ball.
Jurgen Klopp and Thomas Tuchel were two German coaches that took high pressing to a new level at Dortmund. Nagelsmann and his Leipzig side use the same high pressing system.
If Leipzig have the ball centrally, a deeper-positioned midfielder will move to support two forwards who are most likely Dani Olmo and Yousef Pulsen. This will create a diamond and is very difficult to play out of for most teams.
The requirement from Nagelsmann is that you must be quick-thinking as a player when you win back possession in the opposition half. It needs players like Dani Olmo to release the ball within two seconds. This is a nightmare for opposition players as Leipzig counter with such incredible speed. Leipzig's goal difference of +19 is only bettered by Bayern Munich's +32.
Under the previous manager, Ralf Rangnick, Leipzig only averaged 382 passes per game. Nagelsmann has increased that at the Saxony outfit. The phases are longer and now the passes per game are at 541.62.
Leipzig can now assess the possible options when in possession due to more time on the ball. When the ball has been in Leipzig's control, it‘s usually passed forward to one of the creative players upfront.
Leipzig move the ball very quickly and rarely give the opposition players time to breathe when they have the ball.This again requires either the likes of Dani Almo, Christopher Nkunku or the likes of Emil Forsberg to use that quick thinking while on the attack.
Leipzig's focus is on midfield central rotations, which means that they later move infield to attack alongside their most advanced forwards. A central midfielder provides the cover, and the most advanced midfielder pulls back into a deeper position to create the midfield rotations through both the wide areas and the inside channels. The central striker and those offering supporting runs will also do this.
Suppose Leipzig do decide to go with a 3-4-2-1 against Jurgen Klopp's Liverpool. It could seriously negate Liverpool's greatest threat, which is the fullback play. Liverpool are known to push both fullbacks high when in attacking transitions. This season, Virgil van Dijk's loss has negated that cover in behind when Robertson or Trent bomb forward.
Nagelsmann‘s ability to formulate and identify different shapes depending on the relevant fixture is unique. If they fail in regaining possession in advanced areas, their priority switches to preventing opponents from carrying it through central regions by reducing the spaces in those areas. This could be a tough night for Liverpool if they are forced to operate centrally. Let's hope it's a great game.