Berlin (AFP) – Julian Nagelsmann wants more from his RB Leipzig side ahead of a crucial run of fixtures for the Bundesliga leaders, after Saturday’s defeat at Eintracht Frankfurt left him asking whether his players genuinely wanted to win the German title.
Leipzig have seen their lead over second-placed Bayern Munich cut to one point after a meek performance in the 2-0 loss to mid-table Eintracht.
With league games against title rivals Borussia Moenchengladbach and Bayern over the next fortnight, as well as the club’s first foray in the Champions League knockout stages against Tottenham Hotspur, Nagelsmann said the club needs to decide whether or not they deserve their spot at the top of German football.
“We need to decide whether or not we push towards the title, or whether we stay here, have something to eat and drink, and fall back into the pack,” Nagelsmann said.
Nagelsmann criticised his squad’s listless effort in what was just Leizpig’s third league loss of the season, saying their lack of energy and urgency was evident during the week’s training sessions.
“We do not have the quality of Bayern or Dortmund. That means we have to use every minute of training better than them,” Nagelsmann said.
“I don’t always see that. When you see our 11 against 11 (in training) on Wednesday, you can see that we are a long way from being a top team.
“Everyone makes the decision for themselves whether they want to be a winner and rip in. You don’t have to tell me the decision, I feel it, I see it on the pitch.
“And on Wednesday (during training) the decision was not that we were burning to become German champions.”
– ‘Keep working’ –
It’s been an unusually vocal week for the calm and collected 32-year-old, who is in his first year with the eastern German club after a summer switch from Hoffenheim, where he became the youngest permanent head coach in Bundesliga history at 28 when he took over in 2016.
Nagelsmann used a mid-week press conference to slam the mentality of the younger generation of players, including wantaway midfielder Hannes Wolf.
The 20-year-old Austrian –- who joined Leipzig from partner club Salzburg in the summer — told Nagelsmann he was growing frustrated with a lack of game time ahead of the 2020 European Championships and wanted to be sent out on loan.
“It’s currently a trend that every player who is not a regular starter wants to leave immediately,” Nagelsmann said on Thursday.
Nagelsmann said Wolf, who made his Leipzig debut last month having missed the first four months with his new side due to an ankle fracture picked up on international duty, needed to focus on improving in training before complaining about a lack of opportunities.
It should be “a virtue to keep working towards something, even if a phase in your career is not going so well,” Nagelsmann said.
“It would not help anyone in life if I just ran away when something wasn’t going well… (playing football) also includes getting through negative periods, sticking with it, accelerating and not letting it go.”
In addition to playing rivals Gladbach and Bayern over the next fortnight, Leipzig will face Frankfurt again, this time in the last 16 of the German Cup on February 4th.
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