Bruma (c.) and Jean-Kevin Augustin (r.) have made a splash since joining RB Leipzig this summer. - © © imago
Bruma (c.) and Jean-Kevin Augustin (r.) have made a splash since joining RB Leipzig this summer. - © © imago

Bruma, Augustin, Laimer: RB Leipzig's new kids on the block


RB Leipzig's young guns helped them to scale the Bundesliga heights in 2016/17, and if this weekend's 4-1 dismissal of Freiburg is anything to go by, they have found some worthy new additions to their arsenal for the coming campaign.

When Leipzig stepped out on the Red Bull Arena pitch to face Freiburg on Sunday, their starting line-up boasted an average age of just over 23. Goalkeeper Peter Gulacsi, at the ripe old age of 27, was the oldest player in Ralph Hasenhüttl's team - while centre-back Dayot Upamecano, at just 18, was the youngest.

The insouciance of youth was a recurring theme in RBL's outstanding debut Bundesliga season, as a side led by Timo Werner (21), Naby Keita (22), Willi Orban (24) and Emil Forsberg (25) managed to exceed everyone's wildest expectations by finishing second behind record champions Bayern Munich.

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The summer has done little to suggest that Leipzig intend to modify their footballing DNA in 2017/18. In August, Orban was named club captain, underlining a philosophy that youth and leadership are by no means mutually exclusive. Meanwhile, the club splashed out on four summer signings: Yvon Mvogo (23), Bruma (22), Jean-Kevin Augustin (20) and Konrad Laimer (20), and early indications suggest they are going to fit in very nicely indeed. 

Swiss goalkeeper Mvogo is admittedly second in the pecking order behind Gulacsi, but the three other new arrivals - Portuguese winger Bruma, French striker Augustin and Austrian midfielder Laimer - have already had a chance to showcase their abilities. 

Bruma joined from Galatasaray in June after an excellent season in Turkey, in which he notched up 11 goals and six assists. Part of the league and cup double-winning squad in 2014/15, the Portuguese Under-21 international arrived in Saxony with a reputation for speed, skill and scoring goals. Freiburg certainly won't need telling twice.

The 22-year-old substitute had only been on the pitch for about two minutes when he grabbed his maiden Bundesliga goal in sensational fashion, spinning and sending an unstoppable half-volley into the top corner. It was the knock-out blow for Christian Streich's side, who were already reeling from the hosts' second-half salvo. A goal down at the break, Leipzig had come roaring back with a brace from Werner and another from captain Orban.

Augustin may not have got on the scoresheet but his impact was arguably even greater than Bruma's. The young striker - European U19 champion with France in 2016 - chose to leave boyhood club Paris Saint-Germain this summer, having only made 13 appearances in all competitions last season, and the French side's loss definitely looks like it will be Leipzig's gain.  

The 20-year-old's power, pace and trickery are sure to make him a fan favourite at the Red Bull Arena this season, and his link-up play with Leipzig's other attacking talents is already bearing fruit. He was the best player in the first half against Freiburg, and could have had a spectacular early opener but for a fine save from Alexander Schwolow. Undeterred, he went on to provide assists for Orban and Werner as Leipzig took control of the game after the interval.

Watch: Two assists for Augustin and Bruma smashes home a Goal of the Season contender against Freiburg! 

If Augustin looks like he might threaten Forsberg's place as Leipzig's assist king - the Swede teed up Werner for the equaliser - then holding midfielder Laimer appears to be the perfect foil and future replacement for midfield maestro Keita. The Austrian - who could make his full international debut in the upcoming FIFA 2018 World Cup qualifiers against Wales and Georgia - showed flashes of his ability in the season opener against Schalke, even if Hasenhüttl's men eventually lost the game 2-0.

After three consecutive league and cup doubles with Red Bull Salzburg, Laimer was named 2016/17 Player of the Season in the Austrian Bundesliga. An energetic box-to-box midfielder, he isn't afraid to get stuck into challenges, as demonstrated by the 10 yellow cards he picked up in all competitions last term. His positional intelligence should also give Leipzig's midfield some much-needed balance - especially when they come up against deep-lying defences such as Schalke's.

That opening 2-0 loss can in many ways serve as a useful lesson for Hasenhüttl's youthful squad, especially given the nature of their response against Freiburg. Sunday's win snapped a seven-game run of defeats for Leipzig when they had conceded the opening goal - a sure sign of progress.

It will take something special for Leipzig to match their exploits of last season, especially with the added demands of the UEFA Champions League. But the club's young talents have spent the past year disproving the theory that you can't win anything with kids, and their ambitious new arrivals should only increase an already voracious appetite for success.

A busy month of September - with no fewer than five Bundesliga outings and the club's first ever European jousts, against French champions Monaco and Turkish champions Besiktas - should give a clearer idea of what Leipzig can achieve in 2017/18. One thing's for sure: nobody will be underestimating the new kids on the block this time around.

Andy Smith

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