RB Leipzig Frauen: A team ready for the next level – scout report
The stock of women’s football has never been higher since the success of Euro 2022. Many leagues, including the WSL, are reporting exponentially higher attendance.
This tactical analysis will showcase a team that is on the rise, a team with a very exciting future. For this analysis, we are heading to Germany – a nation that has dominated women’s football over the years. Wolfsburg have primarily been the main force of recent years, however, FC Bayern Frauen are hot on their heels this season. For this tactical analysis though, we are looking at a team in the 2. Frauen Bundesliga (though probably not for much longer).
RB Leipzig Frauen are enjoying a fantastic season – they are top of the league with a massive 11-point gap to second place Andernach. Saban Uzun’s team are also proving that they can not only hold their own against the Frauen Bundesliga sides but dispose of them comfortably as the recent 6-1 victory against SGS Essen in the DFB-Pokal Frauen proves.
RBL are looking to build on last season’s third-place finish and by all accounts, it looks like they will be promoted. 35-year-old head coach Saban Uzun is proving that he has what it takes, his team are showing they buy into his tactics and are demonstrating on a weekly basis that it is effective.
Prior to becoming head coach at RB Leipzig Frauen, Uzun gained plenty of experience coaching at youth levels throughout German football, most recently Wolfsburg U23s. This knowledge is likely proving to be useful as Leipzig have a very youthful playing squad with some very talented players who will be highlighted in this analysis.
This tactical analysis in the form of a scout report will assess the playing style of RB Leipzig Frauen, analysing how intricate off-the-ball movement and solid defensive blocks are the key to their success. This tactical analysis will also look at how they might get on in the Bundesliga next season. Additionally, this scout report will highlight one starlet to watch out for in the future of German football.
Saban Uzun’s tactical setup is incredibly fluid, therefore, RB Leipzig Frauen’s ‘preferred formations’ are rather difficult to quantify. For example, Wyscout indicates that Uzun primarily utilises a 3-5-2 and a 4-2-3-1 formation. Having watched a vast amount of games in order to study RB Leipzig’s tactics, their shape evolves and changes throughout the game depending on the situation.
It would perhaps be more pertinent to look at RB Leipzig’s heat map to get a more accurate idea of the positions the players occupy. The visual below shows that whilst Uzun’s team are very flexible in their shape, they primarily operate in a mid-block which will be looked at further in this article. RB Leipzig Frauen also utilises the width of the pitch which of course is a common practice when using the 3-5-2.
RBL Frauen average 57.56% possession per game. However, this is a very limited view of this particular metric as RBL’s average possession fluctuates a lot. For example, in a recent game against Freiburg II, Uzun’s team averaged 73% possession. In contrast, against Eintracht Frankfurt, they averaged 44% – RBL won both of these games. There is great versatility in this team, they are equally happy with or without the ball, and the individuals on the pitch are very much capable of adapting to the unfolding scenarios in front of them.
Positional rotations and off-the-ball movements
RB Leipzig Frauen frequently use intricate positional rotations and off-the-ball movements to aid their attacking build-up play. These rotations mostly occur between the central midfielders and the forwards. As the images below show, the right-sided forward (Vanessa Fudalla) who will often play as a ’10’ has made an arching run into the midfield area. The left-sided striker then runs into the central midfield area whilst the left-central midfielder makes a forward run to occupy the defensive line.
These short, sharp movements assist the transition into the attacking phase of play whilst causing problems for the opposition defence as defenders can be easily dragged away from their positions, creating gaps to be exploited. These rotations allow the team to be incredibly adaptable when attacking, of course, this means that there are more players able to contribute to the attacking phase. Greater versatility means there are likely to be more goal-scoring opportunities generated.
The image below is another good example of RB Leipzig’s off-the-ball movement. The first thing to note is that when in the 3-5-2 formation, the left wing-back (Christina Beck) often stays higher and plays much more as a winger rather than a wing-back as opposed to the right wing-back.
Beck occupying the opposition defensive line along with the two forwards of course generates excess space for the midfielders to use. Leipzig’s forward line always stays relatively close to the midfielders so the positional rotations can be easily executed. Another reason for this is because it means the opposition have to engage with a much higher defensive line than they would perhaps like to – meaning there is a vast amount of space to be exploited through a quick pass in behind the line.
Another signature of RB Leipzig’s attacking play is how involved the centre-backs are, particularly Louise Ringsing. As shown above, the left-sided centre-back will often play quick one-twos with the midfield and progress the ball into the attacking third. The data viz showcases her progressive passes this season which have been an important component in the Leipzig attack.
When in the defensive phase of play, RB Leipzig do a lot of their defending on the edge of their own area as shown via the data viz below. They are extremely adept at ensuring the opposition cannot get behind the defensive line. RBL Frauen averages 49.46 interceptions per 90, showing the defenders have a good ability to read the game to be in the right positions to intercept passes rather than being forced into a tackle.
Uzun’s side currently win 67.5% of the 72.46 defensive duels they engage in per 90, however, they are only successful in 45% of their aerial duels which presents an issue. Should they face a team that opts to play more of a long ball strategy, or a target forward then it is a way for the opponent to generate goal-scoring opportunities.
Regardless of the formation that Uzun has used, RB Leipzig will often fall into a defensive block of four. As shown in the image below, this is one of the games where they were primarily using a 3-5-2. In the image below, the block of four is clearly visible, consisting of the three centre backs and the right wing-back. Christina Beck who plays as the left wing-back occupies more of a midfield role.
Back four structures in the defensive phase allow for teams to absorb pressure from the opposition and launch counter-attacks quickly. In RB Leipzig’s case, Christina Beck is ready to attack down the left whilst Louise Ringsing, who occupies the left-back position when in the defensive block, is also able to provide that extra attacking support.
This shape also allows the team to apply pressure on the ball carrier quickly and effectively, particularly in midfield areas. This can disrupt the opponent’s passing game and force them into making mistakes or turnovers.
Do RB Leipzig press high? For the most part, yes. As the visual below demonstrates, they look to counterpress rapidly after losing possession. So far this season they have executed 258 counterpressing recoveries with 60 of them leading to a shot. Counterpressing can also help prevent counterattacks by the opposing team. By applying pressure on the opponent immediately after losing the ball, the team can disrupt the opponent’s rhythm and force them to play the ball long, which can be much easier to defend against.
It would be remiss not to use this tactical analysis to assess some of the issues that could affect RBL should they look to use this style of play next season. Although promotion is not yet confirmed, the 11-point gap makes it seem highly likely they will be playing their football in the top tier next season.
When the opposition is building an attack, the Leipzig press can become disjointed and a little chaotic. This makes it rather easy for the opposition to pass their way through or around the press. As shown in the image below: RB Leipzig have engaged in a press where their entire midfield has shifted to the left side of the pitch. They have subsequently failed to win the ball back and the opposition keeper can play a simple pass out to the attacker who has acres of space.
In the image above, SC Sand are playing out from the back, Leipzig have tried to press the central defender but she has retained possession. There is a pass available to the midfielder who can then lay the ball off to the fullback who has the freedom to attack down the wing.
Since there is an unavoidably high probability that RB Leipzig will gain promotion to the top tier of German football, it is possible to analyse how they might get on next season. Of course, it is vital to preface this section of analysis with an acknowledgement that there are many variables that will impact RB Leipzig’s performance next season. After all, the only thing truly predictable about football is its unpredictability. That being said, it is possible to form a general idea of how they might get on.
Below is a data viz showcasing RB Leipzig’s xG map and goalscoring stats for the current season. It’s no secret that RBL have been scoring for fun this season, having netted 38 goals in all competitions.
By comparison, Turbine Potsdam who are floundering at rock bottom in the Frauen Bundesliga have only managed to hit the back of the net on four occasions this season. It’s highly unlikely that, even after factoring in the step up to the top level, RB Leipzig will endure Potsdam’s profligacy in front of goal.
Bayer Leverkusen are currently in 6th place in the Frauen Bundesliga, exactly mid-table. They have managed to find the back of the net 15 times so far this season. So, even if RB Leipzig only score half of the goals they have this season, it would still see them approximately in mid-table which would qualify as an excellent first season post promotion.
Applying the same thinking to the opposite end of the pitch then; so far this season have conceded only 13 goals in the league and two in the cup. They have a good defensive structure as mentioned previously. Next season, they will be coming up against big teams such as Wolfsburg and Bayern Munich – these teams, of course, are far more clinical and have players who possess the ability to score the lower percentage chances so it is highly likely they will concede more goals than this current campaign.
Potsdam are currently sitting on a -30 goal difference and are haemorrhaging goals at a rather alarming rate. As mentioned above, it is unlikely that RB Leipzig will suffer Turbine Potsdam’s fate. So, once again, looking at mid-table Bayer Leverkusen who have conceded 18 goals so far in the league this campaign, it is clear that defensively is where Leipzig will need to make improvements. Leverkusen have conceded only five goals more, taking into account the jump up a level, defensive reinforcements may be on Uzun’s shopping list during the summer window.
The key player
Before concluding this tactical analysis, it is worth taking a look at the stand-out player for RBL Frauen this season; Vanessa Fudalla. The 21-year-old is enjoying a wonderful campaign, having already equalled last season’s goal tally. Whilst she is mostly deployed as a striker in Uzun’s tactics, she has the freedom to roam and mostly plays as a ‘10’, or a False 9 when playing as the lone forward. As her heat map indicates, Fudalla loves to operate around the edge of the penalty area; she can be found lurking in zone 14 frequently.
She is proving to be extremely clinical in front of goal as she is leading the league goal-scoring charts. Her excellent off-the-ball movement is shown below as she just possesses the natural tendency to understand where she needs to be on the pitch. Fudalla’s teammates are well aware of her quality and understand how to create the spaces she requires to thrive. She repays the favour by providing plenty of goal-scoring opportunities for her colleagues, so fat she has five assists to her name this season.
The team is somewhat built around Fudalla; she really is the key component and her performances could be the difference for RB Leipzig next season.
Overall, Saban Uzun and RB Leipzig are enjoying a stellar campaign and are on course for promotion. This tactical analysis has demonstrated how the team is set up to play to its strengths with fluid rotations in the attacking phase and a strong defensive structure.
They have a good balance between experienced players such as Christina Beck and younger players such as Vanessa Fudalla, the latter being a very bright spark who will no doubt be attracting the attention of bigger clubs should she carry her excellent form into next season.
It will be interesting to see how RB Leipzig adapt to life in the Bundesliga should they guarantee promotion. There is no reason why they cannot look to stay in the division and build on that. With the right investment and recruitment, Leipzig could go on to do big things within women’s football.
Time will tell exactly what the future holds, but for now, RB Leipzig are a very exciting team to look out for.