Loïs Openda has 24 goals and seven assists in his first 31 Bundesliga appearances for RB Leipzig. - © DFL/Getty Images/Boris Streubel
Loïs Openda has 24 goals and seven assists in his first 31 Bundesliga appearances for RB Leipzig. - © DFL/Getty Images/Boris Streubel

Loïs Openda: The goal machine leading RB Leipzig's UEFA Champions League qualification charge


RB Leipzig's push for a top-four finish has been fuelled by the goals of star striker Loïs Openda. bundesliga.com looks at the Belgian's superb debut season in the Bundesliga...

Matchday 28 saw Loïs Openda grab a pair of both goals and assists in a dominant RB Leipzig display against SC Freiburg. The last time a Leipzig player had four goal involvements in one game was back in 2020, when Christopher Nkunku made four assists against Schalke.

Whereas Nkunku was once the name on the lips of all Leipzig fans, it is now Openda who is getting all the love - and rightly so. The Belgian has been at the top of his game since the turn of the year, and is third in the top scorer rankings with 24 goals behind Harry Kane (35) and Serhou Guirassy (25). 

Just how has he been able to dominate in his debut Bundesliga season?

Watch: All Loïs Openda's Bundesliga goals and assists so far


Arriving in Germany from RC Lens in Ligue 1, Openda came with a reputation of being an out-and-out striker who gives you goals by the bucket load. Scoring 21 goals in his only year in France, Openda was among the top five scorers in the league behind the likes of Alexandre Lacazette and Kylian Mbappe. 

The 2023/24 season has already seen him beat that tally, and he looks on course to set it well behind him before the end of the season. Since being moved to central areas from the wing to play as a forward at Vitesse, Openda has reached double figures in goals during every season of his young pro career. 

One of the big factors in that record is Openda's sheer pace and determination to chase down opponents and opportunities to often create a goal out of nothing.

Openda is a constant danger on the last line of the attack. - DFL Deutsche Fußball Liga

Pace to burn

Indeed it is that lightning speed that gives Openda a significant edge over most defenders on his day. Standing at 5"9', the Belgian's low centre of gravity makes him hard to contain once he finds his stride in transition.

Bundesliga defences have been on the receiving end of Openda's slaloming runs on multiple occasions this term. A great example being his goal in Leipzig's 2-3 loss to Leverkusen on Matchday 18, where he exploited an unsettled Die Werkself backline in transition following a corner.

With Leipzig on the break and Leverkusen defenders losing track of his movement, Openda motored through the length of the pitch to connect with a superb pass from Dani Olmo to complete a wonderful team move from Marco Rose's men.

Openda driving at full speed can be near impossible to contain. - DFL Deutsche Fußball Liga

Openda's speedy runs are evidenced by the numbers as well. He features in the Bundesliga top five for Top Speed, clocking an incredible 36.09 km/h this season. This figure also makes him the quickest Leipzig player, which is all the more impressive considering all the young and fast talent at the club's disposal.

The 23-year-old's movement is impressive both in central as well as wide areas. With Rose's 4-2-2-2 system, Openda uses his pace to stretch defences, often moving wider and away from central areas to be an additional option and create dangerous crossing opportunities.

He did so against Freiburg, expertly cutting back to Amadou Haidara for the game's opener.

Quality all over

Openda's physical attributes make him a good fit for the environment of Bundesliga football. However, what is equally impressive is the quality of his execution in attack. 

This season, the former Lens man is only behind Kane according to Expected Goals (xGoals), registering 21.4 to date. From those chances, his range of finishes have been noteworthy in the league. 

So far, Openda has scored 15 goals with his right foot, five with his left and four with his head. 

Watch: Xavi, Olmo and Openda - Leipzig artists

They say "if you don't shoot, you don't score", and that saying certainly applies in Openda's case. The Belgian has been incessant not only in his determination to take on defenders with his speed, but also in testing Bundesliga goalkeepers with his ability to generate shots for himself.

This season, only Kane has also attempted more shots overall (141) than Openda's 111. The next best is Deniz Undav at Stuttgart with 82. Openda has been able to stand out among an excellent range of strikers in the Bundesliga because of the superb blend of qualities he brings to the table.

Not only is Openda one of the quickest strikers in the league, he is also hugely composed in the box and in 1v1 scenarios, which means his team-mates can always rely on him to turn up when it matters.

Therefore, it is no wonder that Openda has started 30 of 31 league games so far for Leipzig. In the one game he started on the bench against Bochum on Matchday 24, he came off and got on the scoresheet.

There is more to Openda than just his scoring though, he has seven assists to his name and has shown glimpses of real creative ability in finding his team-mates in open play. One such perfect assist was for Emil Forsberg's last goal for Leipzig on Matchday 15, in a 3-1 win for Die Roten Bullen.

Openda has struck up a great understanding with fellow summer arrival Xavi - Boris Streubel/Bundesliga

Only Kane has more goal involvements overall than Openda's 31, underlining just how good he has been in his first season in the Bundesliga.

Off-ball dynamo

Modern-day strikers are required to contribute to more than just goals and assists. Within the Red Bull school of football, being a successful striker means also being a menace off the ball in terms of your ability to press, contest duels and win the ball back for your team.

The likes of Timo Werner, Yussuf Poulsen as well as Nkunku were all renowned for their work off the ball which made them invaluable for Leipzig. Openda is cut from the same cloth too. In fact, it was a former Bundesliga coach who drilled the importance of off-ball work into his skillset.

Whilst he was at Vitesse, Openda was coached by former Bochum boss Thomas Letsch, who was the first to give him an opportunity to play up front like he wanted. 

"In his development, he also accepted certain things. I put a lot of emphasis on his work off the ball and he took that on board," said Letsch.

"It's thanks to that he improved the speed of his play in transition. He has constantly improved. He's gone from being a talented player to a very good player."

Watch: Loïs Openda on Leipzig 'confidence'

Through his excellent off-ball work rate, he is a net positive for Leipzig even in the games where he doesn't score or assist.

So far in the league, he has won 45.2% of his duels as a striker, committing the second-most fouls (31) amongst Leipzig players - only Xaver Schlager has recorded more. 

The Belgian has also been on the receiving end of plenty of challenges, drawing 58 fouls from his opponents this term, the fourth most in the league, giving his side many useful set-piece opportunities.

It is the threat that Openda brings on and off the ball which means stopping him almost inevitably means fouling him.

Watch: RB Leipzig 4-1 Borussia Dortmund - highlights

Openda has started the new year on fire, and is level with Kane for goals in this period. With a tally of 13 and counting, he looks well set to finish the season strongly.

Leipzig and Borussia Dortmund locked horns in a fierce battle for the final Champions League qualifying spot last time out and Die Roten Bullen again looked to their Belgian goal-scoring machine to open up a gap to BVB.

Having failed to find the net against them in the reverse fixture, despite his side winning 3-2, Openda was be on the hunt to make things right and did exactly that when his side needed him.

Jadon Sancho opened the scoring with a wonder goal, and just as it looked like Rose's men may be in trouble, there was Openda to crash into the box and finish off a wonderful Xavi pass. Clearly still admiring his Dutch colleague's outside of the boot assist, Openda then added one of his own for Mohamed Simakan in the 4-1 win, sending Leipzig tantilisingly close to the Champions League where he looks certain to star again next season.