Love or hate them, there’s no denying that RB Leipzig boast one of the best recruitment strategies in European football. Whether it’s the signings of Emil Forsberg and Naby Keita or the failed transfer of 16-year-old Umaro Embalo in January, the management at the Bundesliga club has an eye for talent.
One player that has gone under the radar is Diego Demme. The midfielder joined the club in 2014 from SC Paderborn while RB Leipzig were still a 3. Liga club. Arriving for a nominal fee, the 26-year-old is now one of Ralph Hasenhuttl’s key players.
An integral player in RB Leipzig’s 2016 promotion campaign, Demme played 28 games under then head coach Ralf Rangnick. Shining away from the limelight, Demme has moulded himself into one of the Bundesliga’s best defensive-midfielders, which hasn’t gone unnoticed by Germany head coach, Joachim Low.
For a player entering his prime, Demme has shown just how influential he can be on the pitch.
Shown below, we see Demme assisting Lukas Klostermann on Matchday 26 of the 2015/16 2. Bundesliga season. What proved to be the winner, RB Leipzig’s win against 1860 Munich proved to instrumental in their promotion, given this win put them top of the second division.
Demme has the 1860 defence backtracking and as seen later, RB Leipzig like to make use of attacking full-backs. Below is no different, with both Anthony Jung and Klostermann looking to exploit the space out wide. The midfielder is composed enough to loft the ball with the outside of his right foot with Klostermann having a relatively easy finish.
The skills that Demme learned in the second division, he implemented into RB Leipzig’s first season in the Bundesliga. Here, we see that SC Freiburg are playing a relatively high line, allowing Timo Werner space in behind to run into which ultimately gives RB Leipzig the lead. Demme has shown his spatial awareness knowing that the right-back is free but confident in his ability, he’s able to loft the ball over three Freiburg players to create a goal for Werner. Time and time again Demme has demonstrated that he can’t be allowed time on the ball.
Movement and positioning
Only recently have we seen Hasenhuttl switch from his 4-4-2 to a 4-3-3 formation, which is finally starting to pay dividends. His use of a 4-3-3 is very similar to that of Pep Guardiola’s during his first season at Bayern Munich. Rather than a double-pivot, Guardiola preferred one midfielder to sit in front of the defence, acting as an anchor. In his case, it was Philipp Lahm or Bastian Schweinsteiger while Hasenhuttl has the perfect player for this position, in Demme.
The role of a single-pivot is a lot different from that of 20 years ago. He’s there not only to provide cover for the back line, but to also link up defence and attack. Demme’s composure on the ball as well as positioning and his passing ability, both short and long, makes him perfect for this role. Against Borussia Monchengladbach, Hasenhuttl opted for a 4-3-3 from the off. Demme acted as cover for defence while he was the player that kept RB Leipzig ticking over when in possession on the ball.
Here we see Demme as the deepest midfielder of a three-man midfield. Dropping into a back-three, his positioning allows both Keita and Kevin Kampl to roam the pitch while both full-backs, Konrad Laimer and Klostermann push into the opposition half. Several players playing in this role would perhaps take the easy option and play the ball to the centre-back and in this case, Dayot Upamecano. Even with the press from Lars Stindl, Demme is able to look up and find Klostermann at left-back which then puts Gladbach on the back foot.
Although playing the single-pivot is his primary role, Hasenhuttl’s fluidity allows Demme to excel in other areas of the pitch. Here he receives a ball from a Klostermann throw in and instantly he has his head up looking to switch the play. With RB Leipzig’s attacking full-backs, he knows that Laimer will attack the right-flank, which created a scoring opportunity.
The still below shows that you can’t allow Demme time and space on the ball. There’s no pressing from the Gladbach midfield which allows the German to pick his pass. Not only that, Demme could also roll the ball into either Keita or Kampl. Whether it’s poor marking on Gladbach’s part, the anticipation showed by the 26-year-old must be praised.
Reading the game
Another strength of Demme’s game his ability to read the ball. Here, the midfielder nicks the ball away from Thorgan Hazard before playing a simple pass to Upamecano. Not only that, once Demme plays the ball he’s looking for the space and ready to receive again to start another RB Leipzig attack.
Seconds later, Gladbach are on the back foot. Hazard is nowhere near his opponent while there is no opposing player within 15-yards of the ball. Demme can thus bide his time and assess his passing options.
Here we see Demme play the ball into Marcel Sabitzer’s feet which results in a shot on goal. This attack comes from Demme intercepting the ball ahead of Hazard while he could just as easily play the ball into one of his midfield partners, Keita or Kampl.
Unfortunately for Demme, an injury ruled him out of Germany’s Confederations Cup win in Russia during the summer, earning his first cap against San Marino just a week earlier. Low certainly sees something in the RB Leipzig midfielder while Demme is a good option to have should he make the 23-man squad for the World Cup.
The 26-year-old is someone who likes to remain out of the limelight while he’s a player that Hasenhuttl believes in. Demme is the player that allows Keita & Co. to play their football which is a reason why RB Leipzig are once again in contention to qualify for the Champions League.
With an average pass accuracy in the high 80’s, Demme is important to RB Leipzig’s success. The German is rarely wasteful in possession while Hasenhuttl relies on him to keep possession ticking over. He’s shown time and time again that he can do it against the top clubs while his current form is likely to cause Low a selection headache. If he carries on, it wouldn’t be at all surprising to see Demme in the Germany national team.