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Germany forward Timo Werner should slot back in seamlessly at RB Leipzig. - © Reinaldo Coddou H./Bundesliga/Bundesliga Collection via Getty
Germany forward Timo Werner should slot back in seamlessly at RB Leipzig. - © Reinaldo Coddou H./Bundesliga/Bundesliga Collection via Getty

Timo Werner: Where will the Germany forward fit in at RB Leipzig?


Timo Werner is back at RB Leipzig after a UEFA Champions League-winning stint with Chelsea. bundesliga.com examines where the Germany forward will fit in under Domenico Tedesco...

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Werner, 26, spent four years at Leipzig between 2016 and 2020, registering 90 goals and 40 assists in 156 competitive appearances. He did his best work in 2019/20, scoring 28 Bundesliga goals - second only to Robert Lewandowski (34) that season.

Watch: Timo Werner's top 5 Bundesliga goals so far!

For the most part - under Ralph Hasenhüttl, Ralf Rangnick and Julian Nagelsmann - Werner was used as a central striker. Whether flying solo or as part of a front two, the result was pretty emphatic. In 136 matches in his preferred position, the former VfB Stuttgart youngster scored 80 goals, which equates to 88.8 percent of his total haul in Leipzig colours.

On a sliding scale for efficiency, Werner's next best position in terms of end product was second striker, from where he produced 11 goals in as many games. He also tallied three goals in nine on the left wing, as well as one in two on the right. All but one of his assists fell as a central striker.

Werner's time at Chelsea paints a similar picture of versatility. He had a direct hand in 28 goals in 56 games as a central striker, compared to 10 in 20 as a left winger, six in seven as a second striker and one in four on the right-hand side of the attack.

At international level, Werner has scored all 24 of his goals, spread over 52 appearances, when deployed front and centre. Tellingly, he has started all but three of 13 matches since Hansi Flick took charge in a central role, and is the top scorer of the post-Joachim Löw era with eight goals.

Werner (c.) is set to be Germany's first-choice No.9 at the 2022 FIFA World Cup. - Imago

That's not to say Werner is a classic No.9. Effective running from deep, in off the flanks or buzzing about off the shoulder of a more traditional centre-forward, Leipzig's club record marksman marries the pace of a winger with the creativity of a No.10 and goal-scoring instinct of a striker. Consequently, he is able to slot into a variety of tactical setups.

It's that flexibility that makes Werner such an attractive proposition for current Leipzig coach Tedesco. The 36-year-old German-Italian typically favours a three-man defence with a line of four in midfield, topped off by a fluid, pliable and sometimes interchangeable attacking triumverate.

Christopher Nkunku has become the jewel in the crown, the France international having registered 20 goals and 13 assists in last season's Bundesliga alone. A central midfielder in his youth, he is being utilised more and more as a free-roaming false No.9, as was the case in the second half of the 2022 Supercup and on Bundesliga Matchday 1. The 2021/22 Bundesliga Player of the Season scored on both occasions.

Christopher Nkunku (l.) has become an even better player since Werner (r.) was last at Leipzig. - Imago

Attacking midfielders Emil Forsberg and Dominik Szoboszlai started alongside Nkunku in the Supercup loss to Bayern Munich, before being replaced by centre-forward Andre Silva and playmaker Dani Olmo. The latter pairing partnered Leipzig's talisman from the off in the 1-1 draw with VfB Stuttgart a week later, implying Tedesco's preferred front three.

Werner's arrival may very well prompt a rejig. He played alongside Nkunku and Olmo in his previous stint, after all, whilst complementing the no-nonsense qualities of battering-ram centre-forward Yussuf Poulsen. Silva has since moved ahead of Poulsen in the pecking order, but Werner remains the perfect fit for Leipzig's kaleidoscopic modes of attack.

The 3-4-2-1/ 3-4-1-2 formation that is synonymous with Tedesco's Leipzig only plays to Werner's strengths. No matter where the Germany striker lines up on paper, he will be required to mill around the half spaces in front of the opposition defence, where he can use his blistering pace to go it alone, or draw out a midfielder and create an opening for a forward-running teammate. When he leads Leipzig on the counter-attack, even Bayern 'Road Runner' Alphonso Davies might struggle to keep up.

Watch: Domenico Tedesco's RB Leipzig - tactical analysis

Werner returned a career-best 34 goals and 13 assists in all competitions when operating as part of a similar system on Nagelsmann's watch in 2019/20. Dovetailing with resident game-changer Nkunku and one from the likes of Silva and Olmo in Tedesco's revamp, it shouldn't take Turbo Timo long to refind top gear.

Chris Mayer-Lodge