Timo Werner quickly rising through the world football ranks

 Jan Kuppert/SVEN SIMON

Jan Kuppert/SVEN SIMON

A lot can change in five years. Just ask German club RB Leipzig. The once small club were sitting in 3. Liga, the third division of German soccer, just half a decade ago. Flash forward now and Leipzig are now sitting in second place of the Bundesliga table, 13 points off leaders Bayern Munich. It’s been an astonishing rise for a side who essentially came out of nowhere and now has made a name for themselves in European soccer.

Despite being promoted just last season, Leipzig rattled off 13 games without a loss and took everyone by surprise. It was the beginning of a campaign which saw them finish second in the Bundesliga, ahead of the likes of Borussia Dortmund, and qualify for the Champions League group stage. We aren’t even talking about Leipzig barely squeaking into the UCL via a play-off round, they finished second and comfortably made the UCL.

There have been a lot of players who are credited with the success of Leipzig. Players such as Naby Keita have grabbed the headlines and have even used it to get moves to bigger clubs. Yet there is one player who seems to fly under the radar when it comes to being recognized all across Europe. It’s Leipzig’s star striker Timo Werner.

He wasn’t there through rising years which resulted in Leipzig getting promoted back in 2016. Yet he is a key reason why they have not only stayed up in the Bundesliga, but thrived. He arrived from VFB Stuggart in the summer of 2016 and instantly made an impact in his first season with the club, scoring a whopping 21 goals in 28 games along with 5 assists. He hasn’t slowed down this season either, scoring 13 goals in 21 games for the club. His 9 goals in the Bundesliga have accounted for 30% of RB Leipzig’s total goals this season, a percentage which is tied for sixth highest in the league. Werner has also shined in European competition as well, scoring 3 goals in the Champions League.

Werner is almost the ideal striker for RB Leipzig. He has the speed to burn teams on the counter attack and uses it to get behind center backs and cause havoc.

It also works especially well for a team like RB Leipzig who love to press and attack like hounds when they don’t have the ball. Having a striker who can chase all around the pitch and effectively really helps. Even though he is young, Werner knows when and where exactly to press and help flip the ball back to players like Keita and Emil Forsberg, playing short little passes to spring counters to life. Then he’s off to the races. With his pace, one misstep or lapse in concentration when facing Werner might be the difference between stopping a counter and picking the ball out of your own net.

Werner does a lot of his work inside the penalty area and it’s usually because he’s fed the ball by one of his midfielders. He averages 2.1 shots per game inside the penalty area (excluding the six yard box), which is 3rd highest in the Bundesliga for strikers with more than 10 appearances in the league. He’s proven to be deadly inside that area, despite getting little aerial service.

When it comes to crossing the ball, Leipzig aren’t the best team in that department. In fact, they aren’t even in the top half of the Bundesliga when it comes to crossing the ball. They are one of the worst. Averaging only 3.4 accurate crosses per game, RB Leipzig sit second to last in the Bundesliga in that given category. It seems to justify why Werner has scored only 1 headed goal this season. It also makes it even more impressive he’s bagging a solid amount of goals despite defenders knowing he’s not getting any service through the air. That’s one route to goal eliminated and allows defenders to pack in and not worry so much about overlapping runs from wingers or fullbacks. Yet Werner still causes trouble and much credit goes to his speed and awareness along with his finishing prowess. He can beat defenders to spots on the pitch and if you give him an inch, he’ll take a mile. 

However, his good start to European success doesn’t mean Werner’s the perfect players. He still struggles with situational awareness and constantly gets caught offsides, killing counters and momentum for Leipzig. Werner has the offsides flag raised on him about 1.4 times per game, which is an average which leads the Bundesliga. Obviously the aerial presence needs a lot of work but given his situation at Leipzig and how they operate offensively, he can afford to hold off on it.

After the star performance he had last season along with the start to the season he had, it’s clear Werner is the striker of the future for not only Leipzig, but for the German National Team as well.

With Miroslav Klose retiring, there is a chance for a young striker to rise through the ranks and join the most powerful team in the world. Werner has even gotten off to a flying start under Joachim Low and his coaching staff, scoring at a great rate along with winning the Confederations Cup in Russia last summer. It’s looking more and more like Werner is the heir to Klose’s throne. Don’t be surprised if you see him playing in Russia during the 2018 World Cup. Given his poaching ability and speed, Werner adds a new dimension to this German team and makes them even more dangerous than they were prior. Adding Werner up top along with the other world class attackers surely makes Germany one of the favorites to lift the trophy in Russia.

Like RB Leipzig’s home stadium in Red Bull Arena, Timo Werner has been one of the main ingredients that has sparked this climb. Despite being only 21, Werner has shown that he is the real deal and a threat any time he is on the pitch. Showing out for both his club and country, Werner is firmly one of the top young players in not only Europe, but world football itself. Nobody knows how long he will continue to be at RB Leipzig cause it’s only a matter of time before the big clubs begin to hunker down and bid for him. So while you still have time, jump on the Timo Werner bandwagon.