RB Leipzig have signed a number of players who will fit Marco Rose's preferred 4-4-2 system. - © DFL
RB Leipzig have signed a number of players who will fit Marco Rose's preferred 4-4-2 system. - © DFL

Nkunku out, Xavi Simons in: How will RB Leipzig line up next season?


Christopher Nkunku may have left for Chelsea but RB Leipzig have been busy in the summer transfer window, with PSG's Xavi Simons just one of the stars to have been added as a potential replacement.

Leipzig finished third in the Bundesliga last season, joining champions Bayern Munich, runners-up Borussia Dortmund and surprise package Union Berlin in qualifying for the upcoming UEFA Champions League's group stages, as well as winning the DFB Cup.

Nkunku was Leipzig's most potent attacking force last season, with 23 goals and nine assists across all competitions, but there is plenty of firepower left in the Frenchman's stead.

Before turning to how Leipzig will line up next season, it is instructive to look at how they played last term…

Christopher Nkunku and Timo Werner effectively swapped positions last season. - DFL

Marco Rose employed a 4-4-2 formation in 55 per cent of his Bundesliga games after succeeding Domenico Tedesco as head coach last September, and only deviated from a back four in six games, so it is fair to assume Leipzig will have a similar set-up in 2023/24.

As Nkunku got more advanced last season, he and Timo Werner effectively swapped positions, with the Germany striker starting on the left flank for Leipzig more often than not. On the opposite side, Dominik Szoboszlai - now of Liverpool - also had license to get forward. 

Leipzig's back four of Benjamin Henrichs, Willi Orban, Josko Gvardiol and David Raum was largely uninterrupted, but behind them, first-choice goalkeeper Peter Gulacsi missed 36 games of the season with a ruptured cruciate ligament.

Could Xavi Simons be used in Christopher Nkunku's old role? - DFL

Which brings us to the coming campaign. As well as Simons, who has joined on loan from Paris Saint-Germain, Leipzig have signed attacking reinforcements Lois Openda from Lens and Benjamin Sesko from Red Bull Salzburg. Christoph Baumgartner has also arrived from Hoffenheim, while Liverpool-owned Fabio Carvalho has moved in the opposite direction to Szoboszlai, on loan.

Openda looks certain to start up front, the Belgian's pace conducive to a side that would look to play on the counter in a 4-4-2, while his 21 goals from 38 Ligue 1 games suggest there is enough end product there too. He and Sesko could of course be partnered, but Simons plundered 19 goals and nine assists for PSV Eindhoven in the Eredivisie last season, and could be given a chance to do a job between the lines. 

Further back, Simons' former PSG teammate El Chadaille Bitshiabu has been signed on a permanent basis, and will look to push Josko Gvardiol for a starting spot. And whomever is in the back four, it should be backstopped by Gulacsi, who is due to return early this season, if not for Matchday 1.