Why Wout Weghorst deserves his Netherlands recall
Wout Weghorst has carried on his merry way with Wolfsburg so far this season, punctuating their record Bundesliga start with five goals through the opening 10 matches. With every goal, the 27-year-old hitman has banged louder on Ronald Koeman’s door, and the door has now been opened once again for the Netherlands's November internationals.
The 6'5" striker’s international career began in March, 2018, Weghorst handed his debut in Koeman’s first game in charge as they lost 1-0 to England. Since then, he has played just 20 minutes in three substitute appearances for his country and has not been in a full squad since April last year.
From that point on, the former AZ Alkmaar man has made persistent claims for a return to the national team setup and bundesliga.com argues that Weghorst now deserves a fair crack of the whip having been involved in 22 Bundesliga goals since the start of 2019 - a total bettered only by the league's four-time top scorer; Robert Lewandowski.
Wolves' leader of the pack
Prior to Weghorst's arrival in the summer of 2018, Wolfsburg had spent the past two seasons surviving by the skin of their teeth via the Bundesliga relegation/promotion play-offs, their worst finishes since promotion to the top flight in 1997.
The Dutchman's arrival has changed all that, instigating a remarkable turnaround in the club's fortunes. Over the course of the 2017/18 campaign, the Wolves scored just 36 goals all year as they finished 16th, compared to the 62 goals they notched up last term with Weghorst at their tip as Bruno Labbadia led the side to sixth and back into Europe for the first time in four years.
Weghorst took to German football like a proverbial duck to water, scoring 17 goals in his maiden Bundesliga season and he believes there is even more to come under the guidance of new Wolves coach Oliver Glasner. His flying start to 2019/20 suggests he's on to something.
Watch: All 17 of Weghorst's goals in 2018/19!
"I became increasingly important for the team, but that wasn't necessarily the case at the start of the season," Weghorst reflected this summer. "I've got to fulfil that role for an entire campaign. I can still get better."
The stats don’t lie
Those 17 goals in 2018/19 are the fourth-most in a single Bundesliga campaign in Wolfsburg's history behind only club legends Edin Dzeko (2009/10; 22 & 2008/09; 26) and Grafite (2008/09; 28). The latter sees a lot of the former in their successor.
"Wout is great, I love the way he plays - it reminds me of Edin," Grafite told the Wolfsburger Allgemeine. "I think he can score more next season. He's not quite at Edin's level yet, but he's on the right path to become a top striker. He's focussed, he's got technique, he's got power - I like it."
High praise indeed, and Weghorst believes he simply needs to keep reaffirming his goal scoring prowess in order to force his way into the Oranje's reckoning on a more permanent basis. "We'll see when I'm called. I can only ensure that I perform well for my club week in, week out," he said. "Because of my recent games last season, I don't think I have to change much anymore. I have to confirm my performances."
So far, he's done just that and his five strikes this season are more than international rival Luuk de Jong (one goals in 10 La Liga appearances for Sevilla). The former Borussia Mönchengladbach forward is not the only one outscored by Weghorst; Ryan Babel - the man preferred to partner Memphis under Koeman - has scored just 26 league goals in the past four full seasons, compared to Weghorst's 62 league strikes during that time.
Keeping pace in the Torjäkernanone race
Only eventual winner Lewandowski (22) and Paco Alcacer (18) notched more goals than Weghorst last season, a remarkable effort from the Wolves star in challenging the Poland captain and Spain's leading man.
While Bayern's No.9 has been in his own world this season with 14 goals through 10 games, Weghorst is among the chasing pack just one goal behind Goncalo Paciencia and Rouwen Hennings, and four behind Timo Werner.
Should Weghorst once again push the others all the way and even go on to knock Lewandowski from his perch, Koeman will have little in the way of defence should he continue to overlook the weight of Weghorst's goals. And, believe it or not, there is even more to Weghors's game than his devastating eye for goal.
Watch: Weghorst under the tactical microscope
A stylish fit
Physical, strong in the air and lethal in the box, Weghorst brings other players into play and gives everything for his team. Just ask teammate Admir Mehmedi: "He runs a lot for the team and has a really strong mentality. I can't think of another player who is so crazy, in a positive way!"
These are great traits of a centre forward and fit in Koeman's desire for his team to play fluid, high pressing football. Weghorst also offers what few of his competitors do; he is a focal point for a more direct route to goal and could become a perfect foil for likes of Memphis Depay who could improve on his remarkable record of 11 goals and 11 assists in 16 international appearances since moving inside, if able to play off of a presence such as Weghorst.
His growing relationship with Josip Brekalo also suggests the likes of Quincy Promes and Denzil Dumfries would thrive in supplying Weghorst with the chances he lives for. Take the Brekalo to Weghorst effort in Wolfsburg's 1-1 draw with Fortuna Düsseldorf, as an example.
"We've been building up a real rapport recently," said Weghorst of his Wolfsburg wingman. "He wins his challenge well, produces a super nutmeg and he put the ball on a plate. It's my job to put it in the back of the net."
And when it comes to applications for the role, few other players have such a strong CV.
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