What is Timo Werner's best position for RB Leipzig?
With two games of the 2019/20 season to go, Timo Werner has already bettered the most prolific Bundesliga campaign of his career by five goals, and yet the question is still worth asking: What exactly is his best position?
For a player with 26 goals and eight assists in 32 games, it may appear - on paper - a silly question to ask, but it is testament to both Werner’s ability and versatility that we pose it.
After all, this is a man you could place anywhere in the RB Leipzig front line and he’d continue to score and make goals with remarkable regularity.
So, where is Werner most dangerous? bundesliga.com trains its microscope on the jet-propelled 24-year-old.
Watch: How is Timo Werner scoring so many goals?
Is it centre-forward?
This is clearly Werner’s bread and butter, the position from which he has terrorised opposition defences since Ralph Hassenhüttl gave him a regular spot at the sharp end of his attack in 2016.
It was that first year following his move from VfB Stuttgart to Leipzig that represented Werner’s best of his career until now.
He has done the most damage as one of Julian Nagelsmann’s preferred two frontmen and has been deployed through the middle in 23 of 32 league appearances so far - making up for a substantial majority of 72 per cent of his game time.
It makes sense that the bulk of his goals (20) would also come from a central role, which sees Werner return a goal inside every 100 minutes.
Or as a No.10?
Whereas Werner’s breakout at the Red Bull Arena four years ago saw him play very much on the shoulder of the last man, Nagelsmann has at times asked his pacy hitman to drop deeper and support Patrik Schick or Yussuf Poulsen alongside him.
With seven of his eight assists to show for the Nagelsmann tweak, it is little wonder both player and coach were satisfied with the shift in position.
“He's finding space in between lines and is harder to predict," said Nagelsmann, while Werner added: "I'm playing in a slightly different position as a kind of No.10. That helps me a lot. I've got a lot of freedom. You often have to wait a long time for your chance and stay patient. But I've developed in that regard.”
Watch: Are Werner, Erling Haaland and Robert Lewandowski among the Bundesliga's best-ever goal-getters?
He has indeed, with Werner taking 75 per cent of his chances as one of two up top, while also finding a teammate with more precision than in any other position - completing 72.5 per cent of his passes.
Considering Werner’s return as half of a central pairing, some may feel the argument is won: but Werner has far too many strings to his bow for this to be a straightforward discussion.
How about left wing?
Evidently, the sample size from here gets smaller, but the numbers are still highly impressive.
“He often used to stay on the left wing in order to create counter-attacks,” Nagelsmann noted last Christmas. And it’s true, Werner often peels out wide for both club and country, trying to find space in between marauding full backs and stretched central defenders.
He did just that in Nagelsmann’s tactical masterclass of a 0-0 draw at Bayern Munich on Matchday 21, Werner deployed from the left in order to find space behind Benjamin Pavard and offer an out ball in the first half as Leipzig looked to restrict the reigning champions.
It almost paid dividends in a dominant second period from Die Roten Bullen, with Werner - now operating from the right - inches away from wrapping up what would have been a monumental three points as he fired Christopher Nkunku’s cross wide.
His rare profligacy that night is just that and Werner has six goals from 10 games out on the left, notching up a goal every 150 minutes in the process.
Not only that, he has also bagged his only two long-range strikes from the left wing, showing he can add even more to his game when moved out wide.
Watch: Werner bagged a hat-trick of goals AND assists in Leipzig's 8-0 demolition of Mainz
Or right wing?
It’s little wonder that the wide version of Werner is so potent when you factor in his searing pace, dribbling ability, composure in front of goal and unerring final ball for his teammates.
And while he has started just once from the right this season, it is where Werner made his name with Die Schwaben and - such is the fluidity of Leipzig’s attack - he often drifts out to both flanks over the course of 90 minutes.
That was evident in Leipzig’s first shutout of Bayern in their history at the Allianz Arena, where Werner showed just how much of a handful he is to keep tabs on when he drifts into wide areas - much to the delight of Nagelsmann, who clearly enjoys seeing his star man in action.
“We knew Bayern’s most susceptible point was in behind the full-backs, so we had Timo and Christopher out wide,” said the 32-year-old tactician, having seen Werner & Co. so nearly execute his perfect gameplan.
Typically, in Werner’s sole starting deployment from wide right, the Stuttgart native found the back of the net and had more touches (62) than he averages in total (46.3), centrally (47.2) or even wide on the left (37.6).
So, you cry: ‘What is Werner’s best position?!’
Well, after all that, we’re actually none the wiser and the answer is probably a bit of all four. Thankfully, Nagelsmann and Werner have a far clearer understanding of how to get the very best out of the Leipzig flyer.
As Werner himself explained better than anyone else earlier this season: "I've become more versatile under Julian Nagelsmann, and have already played in a number of positions. I haven't just played out on the left or right... but also as a No.10 or lone striker.”
And he’s been productive from all four - so while Werner’s starting position may change with the wind, one thing is a constant: goals.
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