When Timo Werner left VfB Stuttgart for newly promoted RasenBallsport Leipzig, many people raised their eyebrows. “Is he really good enough?”, they asked themselves and they were right.
During his last season at Stuttgart he showed glimpses of that obvious talent, but there were some true flaws and even though he was only 19 at the time, that came to be the most used excuse regarding his performances at the Swabians. ”Oh yeah, but you know, he’s only nineteen. He’ll grow!” I was one of the people that actually considered him to be somewhat of a lost cause, a talent that wouldn’t grow into that star he was poised to become. How wrong was I?
Making his debut for RB Leipzig at 19, Werner’s footballing qualities were obvious, even at Stuttgart. Leipzig as a club has in very short time become one of the best clubs at developing unfinished products and finishing them, moulding them into true professionals on and off the pitch. Werner is no exception, he might even be the best example.
His first few games at Leipzig were full of doubt. At the time he was one of the most doubted youngsters in Germany, a country in heavy need for a new attacking prospect.
Somehow, he has found a way to shut all his doubters up using the only tools he’s got, his feet and a football. His performances have taken him from the Fussballkeller of German prospects to the absolute top and he is now lauded as the best forwards Germany’s had since Miroslav Klose, considering Thomas Müller isn’t really a striker.
He has also become a key player in Leipzig’s Vollgasfussball-project that at times is the most entertaining thing you can watch. How has he become this key player for both teams?
Werner has pace. Bags of it. In a footballing world heavily provoked and influenced by Electronic Art’s FIFA, a player that has pace and technique is bound to be hyped. That’s just how it is. The German fits this exact profile extremely well. He’s quick as hell, he’s always been technical, but has, since his earliest days, been a mediocre finisher which is why he was often deployed out wide for Stuttgart.
However, whatever his hype might tell you and whatever you may think about this exact hype, Werner is the real deal. The pace, the very same thing that probably got him hyped to begin with, is one of his absolute key attributes. Leipzig play a style of football much like Borussia Dortmund’s. It’s about speed in attack, it’s about tenacity and it’s about winning the ball high up the pitch in order to counter-attack the opponent’s counter-attacks. Gegenpressing, basically. In this system, pace is pivotal. Without quick players, a Gegenpressing system halts quite intensively and finally crumbles under the pressure. With speed, there’s always an outlet, always a mobile unit, prepared to take the ball and run with it until there’s a better available option.
However, as I’ve personally often preached, players who have pace as their main attribute are often rather limited. Players like Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Werner are smart and quick and as long as they can use their speed, it’s fine. But, here’s where Werner’s brilliance shines through.
Last season he showed that he’s more than just pace and decent finishing. Last season we learned that he’s apparently found a way to win aerial duels against much more physical opponents and it’s this exact attribute that has made him stand out among other good goalscorers in Bundesliga and Europe. He is not just a quick striker who fancies a run behind. He is also a reliable header of the ball and nowadays many of his goals come from set pieces or from crosses. He always positions himself perfectly in the box and his extreme agility makes it easy for him to find the back of the net.
Praise surrounding the youngster is most certainly deserved. If he does carry on learning, he could well become the greatest forward of this generation.
”He will dominate the attack for the next ten years. We need someone like Timo in such form if we want to be world champions,” said Mario Gomez after the Norway game.
”Tonight showed us the beauty of football,” Jogi Löw said in an interview with Raphael Honigstein after the game against Norway.
It does seem like Werner is proving his doubters wrong after all. The biggest attacking prospect since Klose? Or even, since Gerd Müller? I’ll let you decide!
By Axel Falk.