Kruse, Werner, Gomez & Wagner: Four No. 9s vying for Germany


After experimenting with false nines, Germany coach Joachim Löw now has options to field genuine centre-forwards in his preferred 4-2-3-1 system.

Even before Miroslav Klose reluctantly retired from the Germany team, Joachim Löw had been in search of options to lead the line for Die Mannschaft.

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False nines have been all the rage, and with the obscene wealth of talent Germany boasts in attacking midfielders, a range of them having been tried with differing degrees of success.

But for the first time since Klose, Löw now appears to have four bona fide solutions at centre-forward - bundesliga.com looks at the quartet who could spearhead Germany's World Cup defence.

The Reformed Bad Boy:Max Kruse(Werder Bremen)

“In this type of form he could prove very valuable for us,” said Joachim Löw, when asked about Kruse’s potential return to the international circuit following Werder Bremen's 4-2 win over Ingolstadt in which he scored all four goals.

The statement provided further confirmation of the Bremen star's stunning return to form that has seen him hit a new personal best in a single Bundesliga season with a 13-goal haul - a record made all the more impressive when you consider that he missed the first 10 games of the campaign through injury.

- © gettyimages / Shaun Botterill

Kruse hasn't been involved in the national set-up since 2015 when Löw famously said he needed to "consider his role as a role model" following a string of self-inflicted issues saw him hit the headlines for all the wrong reasons.

His penchant for a game of poker and his tendency to over-indulge in Nutella were just a few of the criticisms leveled at the 29-year-old during a torrid season with Wolfsburg.

However, since returning to his boyhood club, Werder Bremen, Kruse has been tapping back into the qualities that saw him earn him a place in the national team for the first time back in 2013.

The 14-time international is not afraid to hold up play to bring advancing midfielders into the game, while his ability to work in between the lines and take opponents out of the game with his passing and movement are all qualities demanded of the lone striker in Löw's system.

“Max Kruse is an option for the [FIFA Confederations Cup 2017],” said Löw recently. “He’s got a great overview and leads the line from the front extremely well. Just look at his equaliser against Hamburg, he started to the move himself from the halfway line. He’s really improved.”

Pros: Kruse ticks a lot of the boxes Löw is looking for in his lone striker from his goalscoring to his creativity.

Cons: Still needs to prove to Löw that he has the discipline to represent his country.

Watch: Max Kruse on scoring four goals against Ingolstadt on Matchday 30

The New Kid On The Block:Timo Werner(RB Leipzig)

"If he continues, I believe he has a great career in the national side,” said Löw of the Leipzig youngster after calling him up for the first time during the recent international break, adding the forward has the "potential to be world class".

- © gettyimages / Alexander Hassenstein

The insolent ease with which he has adapted to life among the big boys of the Bundesliga with his 17 top-flight goals in a side which would still be in short trousers even if they weren't wearing shorts for matches suggests playing for his country will be - almost literally for the fresh-faced 21-year-old - child's play.

Werner's debut in the friendly against England ended with a hamstring tear, the consequence of "an insane amount of running" as Löw put it, and perhaps an indication that the unique pace of international football is one the Stuttgart prodigy still has to adapt to.

It was ironic Werner made his entrance on the scene just as one of "the greatest players Germany has ever produced," as Löw branded Lukas Podolski, headed for a grand exit.

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"I sat in front of the TV in 2006 and watched him with Miroslav Klose at the home World Cup. I grew up with him," said Werner, lines which must have made Podolski feel every day of his 31 years. "I wanted to achieve what he did." There is every chance he might.

Pros: Young, but talented. 

Cons: Is he experienced enough to carry the weight of a World Cup campaign? Jury is still out.

Watch: Werner had a hand in two of Leipzig's four goals against Freiburg on Matchday 29:

The Experienced One:Mario Gomez(VfL Wolfsburg)

What is it with Germany and Mario Gomez? "I was afraid whenever he was in the penalty area," said former Bayern man-turned-pundit Mehmet Scholl after the striker's benchmark horror miss against Austria at UEFA EURO 2008.

Just like David Trezeguet in France, who boasted a record of nearly a goal every other game for Les Bleus, Gomez is not fully appreciated in his native land, despite possessing the one uncanny ability that most players would kill for: putting the ball in the back of the net.

Following his seven-minute hat-trick for Wolfsburg against Leverkusen on Matchday 26, Gomez's Bundesliga record reads like something seen on a console set to 'Rookie' level: played 261, 150 goals, 37 assists. You don't even need to work out the goals-to-games ratio to know that is a breathtaking return.

"It's my job to be there," said Gomez soberly when asked about his sensational recent form of nine goals in 11 league games for his club. "I have the feeling that I have my mojo back. That's the most important thing for a striker."

Given he has 43 goals in 70 international appearances, it is a mojo he has had plenty of for his country, too, flaunting it most recently with his strike in the World Cup qualifier against Azerbaijan.

Is it Gomez's time now? To be fair, he would likely have had a World Cup winner's medal but for a knee injury during the 2013/14 season.

Does he do enough for the team? If that is a question Löw is asking himself, he should listen to Andries Jonker, whose appointment at Wolfsburg has sparked Gomez's goal glut. The Dutchman has simply told his star forward that he "mustn't fight for the ball in midfield" and should simply focus on what he is good at: "Putting away chances in the penalty box. He does that very well."

Pros: A peerless finisher, still Germany's and one of Europe's best. Keeps taking the knocks and producing the goods.

Cons: At 31, he doesn't represent the future. Then again, Klose retired from international football at 36 having just won the World Cup…

Watch: Gomez's top five Bundesliga goals:

The Late Developer:Sandro Wagner(TSG 1899 Hoffenheim)

Glance across the line-up that won Under-21 EURO 2009, and a number of names scream out at you: Manuel Neuer, Jerome Boateng, Mats Hummels, Mesut Özil. Sandro Wagner's does too, but not for the same reason.

While his former team-mates have gone on to lift the World Cup, Wagner has only just begun to raise his career from the footnotes of football history to the front page. "You always need such guys," said Hertha coach Pal Dardai before Hoffenheim's 3-1 win in the capital on Matchday 26.

The Hungarian tactician did not always think so, allowing Wagner to leave for Darmstadt in 2015.  The striker's measly tally of seven goals from 71 Bundesliga matches over three seasons means Dardai can hardly be blamed for moving him on, nor was he the first.

After learning his trade but not plying it at Bayern Munich, Duisburg, Werder Bremen and Kaiserslautern were all stops along the way for Wagner who was not so much on the wrong track, but not on any track at all, a forward who was struggling to hit the target in every sense.

Darmstadt changed everything though, and 14 goals in a toiling team saw Wagner talked of as a potential call-up for Germany's UEFA EURO 2016 squad with his ability to hold the ball up and give an old-school centre-forward edge to the team's attacking finesse potential benefits.

"I still see myself as the best German striker, and that will not change quickly," Wagner replied when asked what he thought of not being included in the last international squad.

Löw has so far resisted the temptation, though Wagner, who has a healthy 11 goals and two assists in 27 league outings for Hoffenheim this season, has an unshakeable belief the national team coach should indulge himself.

"I scored the second-most goals of all German players in the Bundesliga last season. Whether the best players were at the European Championship, others should decide."

At least one already did, though Jogi may well change his mind.

Pros: Germany's attacking midfielders could benefit from his ability to play with his back to goal.

Cons: At 29 and with no European or international experience, the learning curve could be too steep.

Watch: Wagner's brace as Hoffenheim put four past Cologne:

Click here to see how this German quartet are faring in the race for the Torjägerkanone

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