Defensive midfielders are the most underrated breed in modern-day football. From Wilfried Ndidi and Thomas Partey to Fabinho and Marcelo Brozovic, they often don’t get the credit they actually deserve. But most of the times, teams that play the best bits of attacking football have the most underrated defensive midfielders. RB Leipzig’s Konrad Laimer is one of those.
In a team like Leipzig that places a lot of emphasis on verticality and high-pressing, someone has to do the dirty work. That dirty work will help the likes of Timo Werner, Patrik Schick, Christopher Nkunku and Marcel Sabitzer to thrive. That is exactly what Laimer does so silently and effectively, helping Leipzig tick along smoothly under Julian Nagelsmann.
The former Hoffenheim boss was meant to take a while in his first season at the Red Bull Arena. He did start with experimenting with a 3-5-2 or a 3-4-3 shape, but he’s slowly settled onto his preferred 4-4-2 shape that the Red Bull model has always thrived on or the 3-1-4-2 that he likes. In these, Leipzig have Laimer as the deepest midfielder.
In the 3-1-4-2, Laimer has Sabitzer and Emil Forsberg play slightly further forward. The Austrian, who had performed a similar role at Salzburg, had Diego Demme play beside him in the first half of the season. Following the German’s exit to Napoli, Tyler Adams has done that job.
Laimer’s job on the pitch is not to just win the ball back and help out the back-four. He does make 8.16 recoveries per 90 minutes, making as many as four tackles per 90 minutes for the East German side. As per Wyscout, Laimer has won the most number of defensive duels this season in the Bundesliga- 248.
He has picked up the second-best defensive duels per 90 mins tally, with his numbers standing at 12.48. Gelson Fernandes is at the top with 12.53. This shows what an impact Laimer brings to the table and how effective he is at winning the ball back.
Not just that, but Laimer is also adept at carrying the ball into the likes of Sabitzer and Forsberg. He has completed 1.58 dribbles per 90 minutes, with a dribbling accuracy of an impressive 69.8 percent. It shows that the former Salzburg man isn’t a one-dimensional defensive midfielder. He has variety in his approach too.
His ability on the ball is typified by how he completes 89 percent of his passes in the team’s own half. His passing accuracy in the opposition’s half stands at an impressive 76.3 percent and it allows the team to build from midfield on a consistent basis.
He plays an average of 7.21 passes into the final-third- proof of how penetrative he can be on the ball from deeper midfield. This ability allows him to fit perfectly into the vertical-minded system that Nagelsmann likes. There are so many limited defensive midfielders in world football, but Laimer isn’t one. That is why he is the lynchpin at Leipzig.
His performances got special credit in Leipzig’s Champions League wins over Jose Mourinho’s Tottenham. He was ruthless in his approach of winning the ball back and playing it forward. On probably the biggest night of the club’s recent history, he came up with his best performance of the season. It says a lot about Laimer.
This makes it very easy to forget that he is only 22 and still evolving into a better player. Leipzig are a club that likes to sell players on and if things go in this direction for Laimer, he could be on his way out very soon.