This campaign, Augsburg have been one of the most disappointing teams to watch in the Bundesliga. Die Fuggerstädter have averaged just 44.2% possession per game in the German top flight, worse than all but one other side, while the rank 17th out of 18 teams in terms of shots per match (8.6). Only a relatively sturdy backline and a reliable goalkeeper in Rafal Giekewicz have allowed them to keep the drop at arm’s length for much of the term – now, though, they are just six points away from the relegation zone with 12 games left to play.
Heiko Herrlich’s pragmatic – some would say negative – style of football has stopped Augsburg’s more attacking players from expressing themselves. After scoring 13 league goals last season, Florian Niederlechner has found the back of the net on just three occasions this time around, while Ruben Vargas has also struggled to have the same impact. It is a shame Herrlich has been unable to get the most out of the latter – he is one of the Bundesliga’s rising stars.
Vargas started out at FC Luzern in his native Switzerland, and his talent shone through early on. In 25 matches for the side’s U21 side, he netted 17 times despite being deployed primarily as a left-winger. During the 2017/18 season, he was promoted to the first-team as an 18-year-old – he made 19 appearances as Luzern finished third in the Swiss Super League.
Eight goals and eight assists the following term were enough to convince Augsburg to take him to Germany in the summer of 2019 for a fee of around €4 million. It didn’t take him long to make his mark in the Bundesliga – three league goals came in his first month with his new club.
Vargas is a diminutive winger with bags of pace – the comparisons between him and compatriot Xherdan Shaqiri are therefore unsurprising. The Liverpool winger appears to be an inspiration for Vargas – less robust than the former Bayern forward, the Augsburg man has admitted he needs to bulk up in order to put extra pressure on opposition defences.
In his first campaign at the WWK Arena, he led the way amongst his teammates in terms of dribbles (1.6 per game), while only Niederlechner and Marco Richter averaged more than his 1.8 shots. No wonder former manager Martin Schmidt said he was “carrying” the team’s attack early on in the season.
His form at club level earned him his first Switzerland caps in November 2019. He made his debut in a 1-0 win over Georgia, while he struck his maiden goal against Gibraltar in the next game. The Swiss have struggled since then – they have won just one of their last eight fixtures – but Vargas has remained in and around Vladimir Petkovic’s squad.
Upon his arrival in Augsburg, sporting director Stefan Reuter called him “a big Swiss talent who had been attracting interest from a lot of other European clubs.” His performances this term have been slightly underwhelming, but Vargas remains one of the club’s most valuable assets – according to Transfermarkt, he has the highest market value (€13m) of anyone in the squad along with Felix Uduokhai. At 22 years of age, he has plenty of time to develop into the player many people expect him to be.