Timo Werner: the jet-fuelled RB Leipzig and Germany striker under the tactical microscope


Timo Werner has hit the ground running this season, helping RB Leipzig to the top of the Bundesliga table with five goals in just three games. bundesliga.com takes a closer look at what makes the 23-year-old so unstoppable.

Fresh from signing a new contract with Leipzig and earning another international call up for Germany's upcoming matches against the Netherlands and Northern Ireland, Werner put the icing on a remarkable week by scoring his first ever Bundesliga hat-trick.

Moving onto five goals from the opening three games, Werner was at his clinical, opportunistic best in Leipzig's 3-1 win at Borussia Mönchengladbach last Friday, bagging his treble from an Expected Goals (xG) of just 0.67.

"I'm obviously delighted," he told bundesliga.com after the game. "I've scored quite a few braces recently, but I was never able to get a third, despite having some good chances. Thankfully I managed it today and I'm obviously very happy. It's nice to have managed it for the first time and I hope that there are more to come."

Watch: Highlights of Leizig's 3-1 win over Gladbach

In a match where Werner built upon his scintillating start to the season, Gladbach struggled to come to terms with the striker's masterful movement, anticipation and intelligence.

A superb reader of the play and so aware of his surroundings, this, allied with his precise movement, provided the perfect platform from which to to wreak havoc.

To start with, his runs in behind were of the utmost quality. Flawlessly timed and directed, he picked his moments superbly when he noticed his teammate had his head up and was ready to find him with a pass. In addition, the way he exploited the little gaps in between defenders and when they were caught ball watching or had their hands full with another assignment served him well too.

Cunning run in behind

- 2019 DFL

Instinctive run into the box

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The way Werner drifted over to the left either following a rotation or when playing in a wider forward role was another key to his success. From here, Werner could embark on his runs on the blindside of his marker, which allowed him to gain a dynamic advantage over his more awkwardly oriented defender who was facing the ball. He could subsequently surge forward using his scintillating speed and clever angling of his runs to be in excellent positions to latch onto through-balls.

Superbly timed and directed depth run

- 2019 DFL

Terrific diagonal run in behind

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Brilliant depth run on blindside

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Operating in these wider zones had additional benefits too, for it meant he could receive in one-on-one situations, where he could then isolate himself against his man and drive infield towards the box on the dribble, which would also - notably - generate room for his full-back to overlap into.

Providing verticality, depth and constantly stretching the Foals' backline, Werner's movement also created room for his fellow attackers, like Yussuf Poulsen and Marcel Sabitzer.

By using rotations, smart dummies, decoy runs and opposite movements, this offered some neat variations to enhance his menace. Showcasing his complementary understanding with his fellow front-men, and Poulsen especially, Leipzig altered the reference points for defenders shrewdly to place doubt in their minds. Popping in and out of zones and mixing things up smartly, Gladbach understandably had issues dealing Julian Nagelsmann's well drilled, multifaceted frontline.

Instructed to remain high when Gladbach were going forward, this advanced positioning saw Werner offer a great outlet for Leipzig to launch counter attacks, as his teammates immediately looked for his strategic runs once possession was recovered.

Also proving his worth when dropping deep to link play, Werner highlighted how effectively he can help connect midfield and attack. Identifying when a lane was open for midfielder or a defender to find him, he picked his moments to come short nicely.

Using his low centre of gravity, strength and capacity to hold the ball up under duress, Werner performed his duties here admirably. Moreover, his aptitude in this regard saw him play some lovely one- and two-touch passes to his colleagues in ideal forward facing postures to continue attacks with a far better field of view.

Brilliant one touch pass after dropping deep

- 2019 DFL

Although his passing isn't an area that gets as much attention as the others aspects of his game, Werner yet again showed that he's a nifty operator here with some eye-catching cutbacks, crosses and through-balls to go with his neat interplay.

Werner's expert vision and through ball

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Great run and cutback

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To focus on his dribbling, and the jet-heeled forward's slick shimmies and searing changes of pace and direction, particularly when coming infield from the flank, were another highlight. Not only did this enable him to power towards the box and gain space to shoot, but it also meant he could draw one or multiple markers to free up a teammate in and around the box. The example below underlines this aptly, where his mazy run attracts four players before he coolly finds Sabitzer in space.

Incisive dribble draws four markers

- 2019 DFL

Tying everything together with his accomplished finishing, Werner capitalised on his good work to propel his team to a vital victory. His first arose after one of his customary sharp runs in behind, where he exploited the blindside of Matthias Ginter to reach Emil Forsberg's through-ball first.

Excellent run the catalyst for his opener

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From here, the determined attacker shrugged off Ginter before calmly slotting the ball through the legs of Yann Sommer to round out a super passage of play.

Classy finish between Sommer's legs

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His second offered a lesson in anticipation and why remaining alert is so crucial, as he reacted first to pounce on the loose ball. Skipping by Ginter with a neat first touch, Werner then exploded right through the heart of the home side's defence.

Pouncing rapidly on loose ball ahead of second goal

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Maintaining razor sharp ball control at full speed, he had the dexterity and poise to apply his deadly finish with his left foot to send Leipzig 2-0 up, the early finish with his supposedly weaker foot giving Sommer less time to position himself for the save.

Quality finish for second goal

- 2019 DFL

Werner's third then saw him again make the most of a free ball following Ginter's poor defensive header, with the ball falling, somewhat fortuitously, into his path. But from then on there was no luck required. Werner then sprinted towards goal and found himself in another one-on-one with Sommer. Preparing himself wonderfully to shoot, he opened his body up so he could place his composed side footed finish into the bottom right corner to cap off his hat-trick.

Clinical finish for third goal

- 2019 DFL

By the numbers, his seven touches inside the box, five successful dribbles, four shots, four progressive runs, three accurate crosses, two chances created and the fact he completed 24 of his 31 attempted passes punctuated Werner's outstanding effort.

Clearly relishing playing under the tactically sophisticated Nagelsmann, Werner made sure to praise his teammates for their role in his exemplary form when speaking on the topic. "It would be too simple just to put it down to the new contract – I was scoring goals and providing assists at the end of last season too," he explained.

"It's just because we're playing so well as a team and I'm getting excellent service from my teammates and we're trying to play football out from the back, and it's worked fantastically in these first three games."

With three wins from three games to kick off the new campaign and Werner on fire, Leipzig's clash with Bayern Munich looms as a captivating clash following the international break.

But before all that, he'll be hoping to replicate his heroics at club level for the national team, as he continues along his path to establishing himself as one of the premier forwards in world football.

Edward Stratmann