Leipzig rebounded this weekend with an impressive win against Mainz, with Timo Werner unsurprisingly leading the way. However, during last week the focus again shifted to expectations of Werner leaving for Liverpool prior to next season. If that happens, where should RBL go without its best player? First, let’s look at who Werner is and then we’ll look at some of the options available to RBL if he does leave.
Timo Werner – Scouting Report
Werner is one of the best goal-scorers in soccer right now, though that’s selling short his all-around skills. He’s fast, a solid passer, and does an outstanding job of getting himself into open spaces for quality chances. As with many quality strikers, Werner excels at making the late run that takes advantage of the channels created throughout the attack. That was evident on Saturday.
On his first goal, Werner makes the late run into the open space created by Poulsen’s run. That creates an easy lane for the pass.
Courtesy: Fox Sports YouTube
The second goal was similar. Some strikers would take themselves out of position by just continuing their run. Werner instead recognizes that and slows his run to create the diagonal space for the pass.
Courtesy: Fox Sports YouTube
These first two goals were great examples of Werner’s intelligence on the field, but where do we identify the product of his skill set in his stats?
Shot Volume, Accuracy, and Location
The key stats that stand out when evaluating Werner are primarily focused on his shooting. Werner’s movement and intelligence allow him to generate a large number of shots, and also do so from dangerous areas. This season he has averaged 3.9 shots per game, and manages to put over 50% of those on target. The key to that is the areas he generates his shots from – his usage of space allows him to have 3.2 of his shots from inside the penalty area.
For comparison, let’s look at Werner’s shot production compared to Robert Lewandowski.
Werner’s production is very similar to the man widely considered the best goal scorer in the Bundesliga, despite Lewandowski being surrounded by the best team in the league. They are both similar in how they get to that shot production and accuracy – their understanding of space allows them to generate the vast majority of their shots from the dangerous areas of the field.
Passing and Werner’s Role in the RBL System
Early in his career, passing was one of the weaker areas of Werner’s game. I’d largely attribute that to positioning; when playing on the right, Werner would tend to favor getting to the end line and becoming isolated versus creating better opportunities.
Werner’s role in the Leipzig system has helped to emphasize his improvement in those areas. Playing either in the center or out of left, Werner’s able to move towards the channels in the center of the field and create passing opportunities from there. He’s also able to do so without having to be a true target man, which wouldn’t fit his skill set. Poulsen is able to take that role within the RBL system, and Werner does a great job of playing off of him.
To see the improvement in Werner’s passing, below are his key passing stats per game compared to some of the other top forwards in the Bundesliga. Of these, only Serge Gnabry has generated the same type of passing efficiency that Werner is able to.
Clearly Werner is the key to RBL’s system and success, but it seems that they’ll have to replace him sooner rather than later. From there, they’ll have to determine how they do so. We’ll start with evaluating some of the internal options; obviously, this assumes that they don’t go down the route of changing tactics instead of trying to replace Werner.
One option available to RBL would be to move towards having Poulsen become more of a goalscoring threat for the team; that’s not an option I would lean towards. Poulsen’s great in his current role, serving as the target man who can also make extremely knowledgeable runs to create space for others. However, as covered last week (LINK), Poulsen has struggled with his accuracy. This season hasn’t been an outlier in that regard – if anything, last year stands out as the outlier.
Given his accuracy issues in the past, I can’t see depending on Poulsen to become a consistent goal scoring threat to become the best route forward for RBL.
This isn’t completely an internal option, but one choice for Leipzig would be to execute the option to buy Schick permanently. In order to make this a replacement for Werner, it would also probably require Marcel Sabitzer moving over the left.
Schick shows some of the same efficiencies that Werner has in his game, and it’s paid off this year. He’s put 14 of 33 shots on net, with his biggest deficiency in that area being that he’s also had 10 of his shots blocked so far. This has resulted in Schick having the second-best goals per 90 rate on the team, behind only Werner. Given he’s already performed in the system, this could be a strong option for Leipzig to move forward from Werner.
Again, not a directly internal option, but one I think could work for Leipzig. Daka currently plays for RB Salzburg, and has scored 17 goals this season in Austria. Daka shows a lot of the same skills as Werner, being able to start from wide areas and then drift into the channels to create opportunities. He still has room to develop his accuracy and passing, but given his age he’s a premier forward prospect. The biggest obstacle for Leipzig may just be the large bids that could come in from elsewhere for Daka.
Next Time – External Options Available to Leipzig
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