Christopher Nkunku very much remains the star of the show at RB Leipzig, although it hasn’t always been plain sailing in 2022/23 after a rocky start to the season.
The story so far
Things were looking very rosy indeed for Leipzig over the summer. Domenico Tedesco led them to a first major piece of silverware after beating Freiburg in the DFB Cup final, while Nkunku signed a contract extension and Timo Werner returned to the club from Chelsea.
All of which made their shaky start to the campaign all the more unfathomable, beginning with their 5-3 Supercup defeat by Bayern Munich. That was followed by a disappointing five points from their first five Bundesliga games of the season, and the 4-0 loss at Eintracht Frankfurt coupled with a 4-1 home reverse against Shakhtar Donetsk in the team’s UEFA Champions League opener spelled the end of Tedesco’s tenure at the club.
Watch: RB Leipzig red hot again
Leipzig native Rose was swiftly appointed and masterminded a 3-0 win over former club Borussia Dortmund in his first game in charge. Back-to-back defeats against Real Madrid and Borussia Mönchengladbach subsequently dampened the euphoria somewhat, but the two-week international break at the end of September allowed Rose crucial time to work with his squad.
They have not looked back since. Sitting 12th in the table at the start of October, Leipzig have put together a 13-game unbeaten run in all competitions – including a 3-2 triumph over Madrid - to go third over the winter break as well as marching into the last 16 in both the DFB Cup and the Champions League. Their progress will face a stern examination in their first game back in January when they host leaders Bayern.
Key player: Christopher Nkunku
Following his 20 goals and 13 assists in the Bundesliga last season, figures that helped him earn a maiden senior France cap, Nkunku has seamlessly carried on where he left off in 2022/23, contributing 12 goals and one assist prior to the World Cup break.
“Christo is an extraordinary player, the whole package,” said Rose in November 2022. “He’s got pace, he understands the game and he scores with his head too. The first time I heard his name was when he was in PSG’s UEFA Youth League squad as a central midfielder. Now he’s become one of the best centre-forwards in Europe, if not the world. He’s a special player.” Nkunku suffered an injury in training with France just before the World Cup started and a timeline has not yet been given for his return. Whenever it is though, he will be the first name on Rose’s teamsheet.
Watch: All of Nkunku's goals and assists so far in 2022/23
Only Bayern (49) and Frankfurt (32) have scored more goals than Leipzig (30) so far this season, but their standout display was memorable for a different reason. Trailing Augsburg 3-0 away on Matchday 11, Leipzig struck three times after the 72nd minute to snatch a draw right on the final whistle. It demonstrated, both to themselves and their opponents, they have the grit and character to accompany their attacking flair. Moreover, it allowed them to continue building belief and momentum as they extended their unbeaten sequence.
Watch: Augsburg 3-3 Leipzig
One to watch: Dominik Szoboszlai
On the rare occasion that Nkunku doesn’t steal the headlines, Leipzig have a ready made Plan B: Szoboszlai. The Hungarian struggled with injury initially after joining the club in January 2021, often playing out of position under former coaches Jesse Marsch and Tedesco.
However, with Rose, who was also his mentor during their time together at Red Bull Salzburg, the 22-year-old is blossoming. “He’s delivering the goods and he’s doing it in every game, every single minute,” said Rose. “Out of possession, in possession. He’s always been able to do it but now he’s found his role [on the right side of attacking midfield].” One goal and seven assists in 13 league outings so far in 2022/23 is the impressive return.
View from the camp
"We need the winter break. Hopefully our players at the World Cup will be successful and come back without any injuries. From 2 January, we’ll be working hard again in order to win even more games." - Rose
Key fixtures in 2023
- Bayern (h), 20 January
- Hoffenheim (h), (DFB Cup round of 16), 1 February
- Manchester City (UCL round of 16), 22 February and 14 March
- Dortmund (a), 3 March
- Freiburg (a), weekend of 6 May
Watch: The Bundesliga is back!
All 2022/23 season reviews
Augsburg | Bayer Leverkusen | Bayern Munich | Bochum | Borussia Dortmund | Borussia Mönchengladbach | Cologne | Eintracht Frankfurt | Freiburg | Hertha Berlin | Hoffenheim | Mainz | Schalke | Union Berlin | VfB Stuttgart | Werder Bremen | Wolfsburg
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