Sabitzer’s Transformation into Central Midfield Maestro

RB Leipzig are the team most likely to prevent Bayern Munich from winning the ninth consecutive Bundesliga trophy. Julian Nagelsmann’s foster children are four points adrift of die Roten at the top of the standings. They have the opportunity to cut that distance or even abandon Meisterschale, depending on the results of RB Leipzig vs Bayern Munich which are scheduled for Saturday.

One of the factors that makes Leipzig compete with Bayern is their solid defense. Until Spieltag 26, Die Roten Bullen had just conceded 21 goals, the least in the Bundesliga. With Wolfsburg (22), Leipzig have conceded fewer goals than the number of games played.

Leipzig’s solid defense is the result of Nagelsmann’s tactical suit and the players’ ability to perform as expected. Dayot Upamecano, the defender who is in the Bayern uniform next season, has again shown an impressive performance at the back. Liverpool goalkeeper Peter Gulacsi is still alert to nullify the threat.

In addition, when it comes to individuals who are directly involved in Leipzig’s solid defense, the captain’s name cannot be overlooked. Marcel Sabitzer has successfully adapted to become a die-back roten Bullen who is responsible for protecting the back line. On paper, Nagelsmann installed him as a central midfielder. However, the coach gave more defensive responsibility to the former RB Salzburg player.

Sabitzer is actually not a defensive midfielder. Prior to the Nagelsmann era, he had not tasted defensive roles. Sabitzer was originally a winger, who was installed as a striker, and often filled the attacking midfielder’s post while defending Leipzig.

Nagelsmann seems to have other ideas when he sees the talent of the player who was born in Wels, Austria. Since the middle of the 2019/20 season, the former TSG Hoffenheim tactician has tried Sabitzer in the central midfield position. He was attracted to Sabitzer’s work capacity and intelligence in reading games.

“Now he [Sabitzer] plays as a no. 6 and became one of the most stable players in that position in the Bundesliga. I was surprised he adapted so well. At first I thought he was going to complain about being asked to play further back. “He’s really growing in that position,” Nagelsmann was quoted as saying by the official Bundesliga website.

Sabitzer is good at reading the opponent’s movements. He averages 1.75 intercepts per game, the highest among regular Leizpig squad. The former Admira Wacker player also recorded the third highest average recoveries in the Leipzig squad with 13.1 recoveries per match.

Combined with work capacity, Sabitzer is a complete midfielder who leads the Leipzig midfield. Sabitzer has been diligent in defeating approaching dangers at the back with an average of 1.81 tackles per game. Most of his tackles are in midfield or in the defense third.

Even though he was pulled further back, Sabitzer was still an important figure for the Leipzig attack. Nagelsmann’s Leipzig tends to defend – as well as initiate attacks – by pressing as high as possible. High intensity pressing in the final third of the opponent is the main way for Dani Olmo et al to score goals.

Roten Bullen die high pressing requires good positioning of the second line, including Sabitzer. To do this, the central midfielder is required to move quickly, either to cover or to create a numerical advantage around the ball carrier.

Sabitzer is capable of doing the job well. When Leipzig have the ball, the Austrian international midfielder can also rush into the penalty box and become a shooting option. In the Bundesliga this season, Sabitzer has scored two goals from inside the penalty box through open play situations.

In addition, his long-range shooting ability also gives Leipzig another attacking dimension. Sabitzer is capable and does not hesitate to try long-range kicks. This season, his attempts have resulted in a spectacular goal against Hertha Berlin, 21 February.

In the 2020/21 Bundesliga, Sabitzer has scored six goals and two assists. He became the club’s top scorer in the league with Christopher Nkunku and Emil Forsberg. Playing in any position, Sabitzer continues to be a reliable figure for Nagelsmann. Not only from a technical point of view, the 27-year-old’s work ethic and leadership also stands out in the squad. Last season, Sabitzer was chosen by his colleagues to become the new captain to replace Willi Orban.

“It doesn’t matter if he is tired or at his best, you know what you get from him: thirst [for success], very good tactical awareness and the ability to stay in the action in the last 20 minutes if you need him,” said Nagelsmann. Now Sabitzer is no longer the young talent Red Bull recruited. In the relatively young Leipzig squad, he became a leader and a reliable player at every phase of the game.

“Sabi is always there when needed. And he tries really hard to make the team perform according to the best possible, “said Konrad Laimer, a teammate of Sabitzer. RB Leipzig are having their best season since promotion to the Bundesliga. The opportunity to tackle Bayern is still open. In the decisive match on Saturday, Sabitzer must shows their best. Given that the Bundesliga only has eight games left, the Leipzig vs Bayern match is like a final.

ASL

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