After a roller coaster ride of a career, Andre Silva has made a move to what is probably his biggest club yet in relative Bundesliga newcomers RB Leipzig. The Portuguese striker scored a remarkable 28 goals in 32 appearances last season, breaking Frankfurt’s club record for most goals in a single season. Leipzig fans will be hoping Silva carries over that kind of form to his new club, and finishes where Timo Werner left off two seasons ago. But now under the influence of Jesse Marsch, how will Andre Silva fit in?
Jesse Marsch’s principles of play are focused primarily on quick transitions, pressing from the front, and just an over-arching approach of speed, strength and intensity in all areas of the game. There simply wasn’t anything slow about his RB Salzburg team, and the same will likely be said of his new RB Leipzig team in a few months time.
For all of their strengths in 2020-21, RB Leipzig lacked a genuine goal-scoring centre-forward after the departure of Timo Werner to Chelsea. The likes of Alexander Sorloth and Yussuf Poulsen struggled to adequately fit Julian Nagelsmann’s new mentality toward possession-based football, and several wingers fulfilled the role up top as part of a front two or front three instead. Those included players like Cristopher Nkunku, Dani Olmo and Emil Forsberg, all of whom can do greater damage when properly deployed out wide and able to create from out to in, rather than starting “in”. Right away, Andre Silva ticks that box and fills that void, allowing those players a chance to play out wide, or at the very least the ability to play alongside a genuine target man.
Silva is exceptional with his back to goal and has excellent link-up ability with those around him. This should suit Leipzig’s desire for the ball particularly well, but it also allows Marsch to continue with someone like Nkunku up front if he wants, knowing that a proper centre-forward is now functioning alongside him.
It also must be remembered that Jesse Marsch previously worked with Hee-Chan Hwang, to great success. Silva and Hwang could be a perfect partnership up top, and genuinely allow the likes of Forsberg, Olmo and Nkunku to play deeper or wider. Marsch prefers a front two in the form of a 4-3-1-2 or 4-2-2-2, due to the ideals around pressing and verticality in attacking transitions. A 4-2-2-2 in particular would be a great fit for the three aforementioned players, while still allowing Marsch to rotate the likes of Sorloth, Hwang and Poulsen alongside the big man up top in Andre Silva.
So why is Andre Silva the undeniable starter in that front-line? Essentially, he fits the mould of everything you could want in not just a Bundesliga striker, but also a Leipzig striker. He’s quick, excellent in transition, understands how to press, capable of getting on the end of crosses into the box and through balls, and as already mentioned, excellent with his feet. We didn’t even mention his goal-scoring touch, and 28-goal haul of last season. The others around him check some of those same boxes, but none are a more complete centre forward.
Poulsen is good in the air and an absolute nuisance to defend, but he is not nearly as good with his feet or as speedy going forward. Hee-Chan Hwang is incredibly mobile, quick, and intelligent with his movement, but he doesn’t have the same aerial presence, nor does he strike the same sort of fear into the opposition. Sorloth has the potential to be a Silva like figure, but has nowhere near the same eye for goal or natural finishing ability. Andre Silva really just fulfills a complete and utter need for Leipzig that was severely lacking without Timo Werner. Having played in a front two throughout his career, he also fits Marsch’s principles of play and some of the likeliest formations the American could deploy.
All and all, on paper, Andre Silva appears to be the perfect fit for Jesse Marsch’s new RB Leipzig team, and should be absolutely essential to the American’s plans in 2021-22.