By Harry Siddle – @HS_10Ftbol
With the increasingly likely departures of Daniel Sturridge and Divock Origi in the upcoming summer transfer window, Liverpool are going to be left with the exciting but unproven Rhian Brewster as the only backup striker to either Mohamed Salah or Roberto Firmino going into the 2019/20 season.
Therefore, the main priority for Liverpool in the summer is to not only sign a skilled and reliable striker to compete and act as backup, but at the same time find a striker who will stylistically fit well in this Liverpool side. That player should be Timo Werner.
Instead of the unreliable likes of Dominic Solanke or Divock Origi, Timo Werner gives you goals and gives you them consistently. Already on 11 goals this season, Werner’s first year at Leipzig saw him score 23 and 15 goals in his second year in all competitions but his game becomes even more interesting when you look at how he plays.
Much of Werner’s impressive goal scoring numbers come from his off the ball movement. Werner is a very active striker in the sense that he’s very rarely static as he is always trying to create openings for himself across the pitch.
The German uses his speed to his advantage extremely well for a striker, as you’ll often see him stretching the opponents defence by not only making runs off the shoulder of the defender in central positions, but also starting from a wide position and making runs from there.
Although he doesn’t attempt many dribbles per game or is there anything special about that side of his game, he uses his athleticism to skip by defenders instead of a varying range of skills.
Much of his dribbling comes from him drifting to the left as he loves cutting inside from the left and shooting from there as seen in the shot map below. In central positions, you can see he isn’t the most comfortable of strikers when it comes to dribbling in tight areas as he thrives in space.
Werner’s comfort in being able to make meaningful runs behind or from the wing would be invaluable to a side like Liverpool.
Liverpool like many top sides will come up against a lot of low block defences throughout the season, and to be successful against these sides it’s all about stretching defences and pulling the opponents out of their natural positions for you to exploit them.
Having the dangerous and unpredictable runs of the former-Stuttgart player should improve Liverpool’s chance creation against these sides.
An interesting fact to note at his time at Leipzig is the fact that he’s very rarely played as a lone striker for Leipzig, as it has always been in a 2 in the 4-2-2-2 system Leipzig deploy.
The 4-2-3-1 has been Liverpool’s main system this season but our unpredictability in terms of formation and system throughout games can mean Werner can fit where the 4-2-2-2/4-4-2 system is used where he’d accompany Salah up top.
All players who move to a bigger club and a different league have to adapt, so if Klopp decides to persist with the lone striker system next season it may take a few months for Werner to come good, as we are experiencing with Keita and the majority of Klopp signings in the past.
Relationship with Naby Keita
For the two years that Naby Keita was at Leipzig with Werner their relationship between each other was incredibly productive.
Just like many successful duos of an attacking midfielder and a striker, both knew each other’s game so well, with Keita always looking for Werner whilst Werner would almost automatically try to make dangerous runs in behind for Naby to try and find. Below is a typical pass and run action from Werner and Keita in there two years at Leipzig together.
This relationship is shown in the stats as seven out of Keita’s 12 assists at his two seasons at Leipzig were to the German.
Even though the space afforded by Bundesliga clubs is very generous compared to defences in the Premier League, with Keita hopefully moving to a more central position next season, his familiarity in playing progressive passes to attackers should translate to Werner if he were to join.
One of Werner’s attributes that would not just fit well with Keita but also in the Premier League is his ability to come deep and combine with his teammates.
He rarely gets frustrated and comes too deep amongst the deeper midfielders when he’s without service, but instead he tends to create space between him and his defender and comes short just outside the box to combine with Leipzig’s midfielders.
His typical move when he comes to help with build up is to release it quickly by laying it off quickly or go for one twos and then spin off his defender to make a run in behind.
This trait would translate well into Liverpool’s front line as the likes of Firmino, Mane, Salah and Keita all love to receive and play quick combination play between each other around the box.
It’s also noticeable that when he comes deep he very rarely likes to dribble from deep to the opponents box, which is intelligent as he leaves that to the likes of Keita at his time at Leipzig are capable of drawing players out from their positions freeing up Werner through his dribbling.
Looking at Werner’s shot map and his game it’s clear too see that he favours shooting from the left side of the attack. A big chunk of Werner’s shots come from when he is cutting inside and shooting from the left side of the box or from runs from the left side.
From the shot map above, Werner has poacher traits to him as he gets into great shooting positions from the centre of the six-yard box on regular occasions, which is down to his intelligence of movement in the box.
When comparing him to Salah in terms of output, Werner strikes similar numbers to Salah. Both his shots per 90 and xG per 90 (the average number of goals he’s expected to score from the shots he takes per 90 minutes) are slightly above those of the Egyptian.
Despite this, this should be met with some caution as translating Werner’s impressive numbers to a harder league shouldn’t be thought of as a guarantee, which has been evidenced with Keita so far. Playing in the Bundesliga where teams offer more space and opportunities to attackers have impacted Werner’s numbers.
That isn’t to say he won’t be a success at Liverpool as Liverpool’s ideal profile for a striker mostly aligns with Werner’s.
He has attributes that would thrive in the Premier League, but to expect him to be an immediate impact may be setting yourself up for some disappointment as he may need to adapt to being a lone striker and having less space on the ball than what he’s used to.