Over the last decade, Joachim Löw built a German national team which not only plays great football, it is also pretty successful. After winning the World Cup in 2014 they kept winning and are now one of the favourites for winning the World Cup again.
The German national team has a lot of quality players, especially in midfield, where you can find a lot of talented young players. Also in goal and at the centre back positions. There are only two positions where Germany doesn’t have a lot of high-quality players. After the retirement of Lahm and Klose Germany missed a striker and a fullback. Joshua Kimmich not only filled the hole Lahm left at Bayern but also in the national team. With Timo Werner Germany have a replacement up-front who gives the German game a new dimension and flexibility in the attacking phase.
Funnily both players played together in the youth teams of Stuttgart and went to the same school, by the way, I went to that school as well. But that’s not important. In contrast to Joshua Kimmich, Timo Werner actually played for the first team of Stuttgart in the Bundesliga. After two years and a relegation, he left Stuttgart and joined RB Leipzig. In Leipzig, he quickly developed into one of the most important players in the squad of Ralph Hasenhüttl. His good performances in Leipzig offered him his debut for the German national team. What are his strengths and why can he be considered one of the most interesting talents in European football?
His speed and acceleration
Timo Werner’s skill set suits perfectly to Leipzig’s style of dynamic fast attacking football. Timo Werner is a super-quick striker who is great at recognising open space behind the defence, which he can use because of his fantastic acceleration with and without the ball.
Because of his speed, he played as a winger in Stuttgart, in Leipzig however he played almost every game as a striker, most of the time with a bigger, and stronger partner up-front like Yussuf Poulsen or Davie Selke. While Poulsen holds his position permanently, Werner moves a lot during the attacking phase, constantly looking for space to sprint into or receiving the ball on the wing from where he can start his dangerous dribbling.
His goal against France shows his speed and ability to attack spaces behind the defensive line perfectly. After Germany won the ball Özil dribbled with the ball in the middle. Look how Timo Werner first of all sprints out of the middle into the halfspace in order to stretch the defensive and therefore create space for a through ball.
With the perfect timing, he accelerates during his sprint to be faster, Özil plays the perfect line-breaking pass, Timo Werner is through and can score the equalizer.
Especially in situations where Werner does not have the ball he can use his speed to go by defenders and receive a through ball before the defence can clear it. That’s why he is so effective in Leipzig’s system. Leipzig tries to play fast with a lot of vertical passes as well as counterattacks after an early interception.
In those situations, Werner has a great feeling of the perfect timing to accelerate and sprint into the space behind the defence in order to receive the pass. Regularly he chooses the right moment when the defenders are concentrating on the ball and therefore can’t observe him.
His off-ball movements
In order to receive those passes behind the defensive line, he has to move a lot without the ball. In those situations, he shows his great perception. He always moves in the open space, preferably in spaces where the defenders can’t observe him all the time, so he can use the blind side to surprise the defenders and reach the ball first.
Here for instance, he recognises the open space behind Frankfurt’s right centre back who had to step up in order to prevent Leipzig from playing the ball into the ten-space, however by stepping up he left space behind him which Werner uses with a diagonal sprint.
Two things are important in this scene, the first one is that the right centre back of Frankfurt concentrates on the space in front of him and therefore doesn’t notice that Werner attacks the space behind him. The other point is the positioning of Werner before he starts his sprint. He waits between both centre-backs so he has the advantage of being closer to the ball than the left centre back who is marking him. So, when Werner receives the ball his body is between the ball and the opponent and he can easily shoot with his left foot.
Here is another example of a great movement by Timo Werner in order to receive a through ball. Bruma dribbles into the ten-space and Werner intentionally moves away from Bruma. Therefore, Koulibaly has to relocate his position and opens up a tiny space between him and the other Napoli defenders through which Bruma plays the pass to Werner who moves unmarked in the open space.
The dangerous dribbler
As I mentioned above, Timo Werner made his first appearances in the Bundesliga as a winger. The behaviour of a winger is still integrated into his game. At Leipzig, he has the freedom to leave his position and wait on the sideline for a pass. Most of the time he pushes to the left side because he prefers to use his right foot. From the left wing, he starts a lot of dribbling´s towards the middle, because of his great technique he controls the ball easily under full speed, so most of the time he simply blows by defenders to get the space and shoot on goal.
However, Timo Werner is also capable of shooting with his left foot. That’s why he is the same threat to the defence when he starts his dribbling from the right side. Because of his ability to shoot with both feet, he is a flexible offensive weapon every coach would love to have in his squad.
His connection with the midfield
Those who watched the German national team playing under Joachim Löw know that Löw likes to control the game by playing a short-passing style. Of course, he prefers a striker who participates in the combination play, that’s why Löw tried to implement a midfielder as a striker, for example, Mario Götze or Thomas Müller. Timo Werner is capable of connecting with the midfield and being involved in quick combinations under pressure, although he can improve in those areas in the future.
Timo Werner moves deeper in order to support Leipzig´s midfielders by offering a passing option between the lines. Because of his positioning, he enables Leipzig´s to break the lines of Augsburg. With the first touch, Werner played the ball to the left back Laimer, however in this situation he probably could turn with the ball and dribble towards the defence, but he doesn’t recognize this option.
His decision making when it comes to pass the ball so far is not perfect. Sometimes, he plays passes which lead the receiver into uncomfortable situations or strategical bad spaces. However, there is a lot of potential, because Werner has a good feel of the game, similar to Griezmann, quick first touch lay-off passes are part of his skillset.
The scene is a perfect example of the potential Timo Werner has in terms of passing the ball. Timo Werner moves deeper to offer Kroos a passing option, with the first touch Werner passes the ball to Özil in the open space which was created by the movement of Varane who had to follow Werner. However, the pass Werner played to Özil was inaccurate and hard to control for Özil. When Werner is able to improve his passing skill, he will become a weapon with those lay-off passes.
Another great example of Werner´s passing abilities, after he received the ball on the left side he dribbled diagonally towards the middle and found the forward moving Demme with a perfectly timed pass which went through two players.
The timing and patience under pressure as well as the perception of Diego Demme’s movement show how good Timo Werner can become if he is capable of playing those passes consistently.
This was just a short analysis, it is easy to write at least 5000 words about Timo Werner’s abilities. Besides his strong off-ball movement, finishing qualities and dribbling he defends quite well which is necessary for Leipzig’s pressing system. With all the potential it is not surprising that Diego Simeone is interested in signing Werner as a replacement for Antoine Griezmann. Bayern Munich and other European top-teams will probably try to sign Werner as well. It will be interesting to see how he can perform in the summer at the World Cup for Germany.