“No one likes us…” RBL Season 5 Winter Break

After what seemed like the longest pre-season ever after our title win in season 4, I’ve finally managed to get through the first half of the season with RBLeipzig. What do you do when you’ve just secured your first title win? Do you aim for another right away? Kickstart an era of domination? Or would you rather settle for another strong league position to just continue to build?

Expectations and Aims

The Bundesliga title odds are in for the 2020/21 season, and it looks as though the bookies might be finally cottoning on to the fact that we’re a decent team.

After our maiden league win last season, they’re predicting us to be right up there again, but just slightly behind Bayern and Dortmund.

The board are expecting Champions League qualification, and I’m very confident that we can give them that at the very least. I want to be right up there again, and I think we’re strong and established enough now to really be challenging for the league every season.

Transfers

Out

This isn’t even all of them, I couldn’t fit them in one screenshot! We made just under £20m in transfer fees over the summer and I’ll go through a few of the more notable ones.

They weren’t finding themselves as first choice starters anymore like they were in my first two seasons at the club, so it was time for Sabitzer and Forsberg to move on. They were both brilliant at times and it was a tough decision to come to sell them. As is so often the case when you actually want to sell a player, I feel only getting £4.4m for Forsberg is an outrage.

Dorin Rotariu never could quite break into the side, and when he did get a chance, he wasn’t up to scratch. He did have a successful spell on loan at RBS last season, but when he rejected the chance to head back to Austria this season, it was time for him to be moved on. Happy to make a little bit of profit on him.

You’ll see there’s been a boatload of loans out. I’ve loaned a fair few players out every season, but because we’re literally rolling in money, I haven’t bothered using the loan market to get a bit of extra cash into the club. Hopefully Guido will be proud of me taking more advantage of that this season. It’s not a huge amount, but every little helps! Mihajlovic is in the same boat as Rotariu in terms of breaking into the team, so his loan move actually contains a fee to sell if he plays a certain number of matches. As does Gbamin’s too, although his doesn’t contain a monthly fee, the potential transfer fee is over £6m, which will be recouping what we paid for him.

You’ll also spot there’s been a fair few loans out to RBS again. We’ll go through them in more detail in the RBS winter break update.

In

We spent a fair bit of money over the summer too, but it was mainly on one or two key targets. However, the signing of the summer has to be this man.

Monaco, what were you playing at?! Being able to secure Thomas Lemar‘s signature on a free is just a ridiculous bit of business and I’m delighted with it. Look at how much he’s worth. You’ll see he’s 25, but he was 24 when he signed so it still fits in with my 24 and under signing policy. You may well be hearing more about him if you read on…

It’s regen time. With veteran (he’s under 30, but still) keeper Gulacsi leaving, it was time to go on a keeper hunt. I do struggle at times to judge regen keepers, but I really like the look of Cayetano. The eagle-eyed among you will spot that Kovar has already gone on loan to RBS, where he’ll be getting plenty of game time to develop. Strong in the tackle and good physically, we’ll at least make a decent profit on him if he doesn’t progress into a 1st team option. You’ll remember Kalkan as one of the few viable options from RBS who had the wings to step up to RBL. We were forced into making that step up over the summer as he was inviting bids from Ajax. After he refused to head back to Salzburg, he’ll be in and around the bench this season. Figueroa was identified over the summer after a Mexican scouting trip, and when I spotted that Bayern had activated his release clause, I couldn’t let our main rivals steal a very good looking prospect. He chose Leipzig, naturally, and in he comes to provide competition in central defence.

If you follow me on Twitter or you’re active on #FMSlack, then you’ll hopefully remember these two. During the 2020 Olympics, I scoured the squads of each nation to see if I could spot a gem or two. I spotted these two in Tunisia’s squad and it looks like they could be a couple of top class players. Getting them both for under £2.5m feels like a bargain to me and both will be in and around the 1st team squad this season.

Now for the big money move of the summer.

After the bargain signing of Lemar, I had cash to splash and I’m making a big effort to try and increase the number of German players in the squad. You’ll remember I signed Kai Havertz in January, and the next player on the potential poaching from our league rivals list was Benji Henrichs. The same tricks I’d used to bag a bargain on Havertz didn’t work with Henrichs so I decided to smash our record transfer fee to bring him to Leipzig. Those red arrows don’t look good, ignore them. A natural right back, I’m planning to use him mainly at left back, as Klostermann is just too good to dislodge from RB.

Bundesliga

It’s results time, and we almost went the 1st half of the season unbeaten. Almost! That annoying red dot against Wolfsburg sticks out like a sore thumb. It was a ruddy painful one too. Leon Bailey stepped up to score exactly the same goal twice and inflict our only defeat of the season so far.

Number 23 playing left back, you’ll be pleased to hear, isn’t our new £50m signing.

Who doesn’t like a 92nd minute Thomas Lemar free kick at home to Bayern to win 2-1?

Or a thunderbolt from Burkey to get us back on track against Dortmund?

Burke was also devastating on the first day of the season in our 5-2 win over Leverkusen, hitting a hattrick. Delighted to get wins over both Bayern and Dortmund, the first time we’ve beaten them both in the first half of the season. That’ll surely stand us in good stead for where we’re at in the league…

It certainly does! We’ve followed up that title win last season by heading into the winter break in a very comfortable position at the top of the Bundesliga. We’ve conceded the same number of goals as Bayern, but they’ve been beaten 6 times already! We’ve scored the most goals, so all in all, it’s been a very good first half of the season. Hamburg are the surprise package sitting in 2nd place. Can they sustain their own remarkable start to the season and qualify for the Champions League?

Domestic cups

We might have beaten them in the league, and they might be having a shocker of a season by their standard so far, but Bayern swatted us to one side in the Supercup. We weren’t at the races at all, and I was seriously worried about how we’d fare in the league. How wrong was I.

A tough DFB-Pokal 2nd round draw at home to Schalke which I was delighted to get through. Another home draw to come in the 3rd round, this time against a Koln side struggling in 2. Bundesliga.

Champions League

It was inevitable wasn’t it…

You’ll see this in the RBS update which will be coming soon after this one, but we managed to negotiate the Champions League qualifying rounds and get through to the group stage. And it happened. RBLeipzig were drawn in the same group as RBSalzburg! And it was a tough group at that, with Man City and Inter making up the four.

We started brilliantly, with 3 wins from our opening 3 matches. Those wins certainly set us up nicely and perhaps lulled us into a sense of comfort, as we followed it up with 3 draws in the return set of fixtures. Philipp Lahm’s plucky Salzburg side taking a point off of their big brother was less than ideal, but the results were still enough to secure top spot in the group and head through to the knockouts for the third time in our three seasons of Champions League football so far. We’ll face Napoli in what looks like a tricky looking tie.

Players

There’s only one man I’m singling out for praise at the halfway point of the season…

What. A. Bloody. Signing. Lemar is a force of nature. You know that way when you’re watching players in the match engine and they’re just absolute beasts? He’s that. 10 goals and 8 assists from 14 Bundesliga matches, with a couple of Champions League goals thrown in too. He’s honestly very close to rivaling Timo as my player of FM17 so far. After only half a season managing him, that says an awful lot.

Can we keep up our form as we head into the second half of the season? Surely the Bundesliga title is already in our grasp?

#FMSlack

Not my words but the words of FM community legend, FMAnalysis. If you want to join 780+ other members of the Football Manager community on #FMSlack, the easiest way to do that at any time is to email me at fm_samo@outlook.com and I’ll set you up with an invite link.

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