Catch him if you can: Timo Werner has been in irrepressible form for RB Leipzig recently, spearheading the team's charge up the table. - © © DFL DEUTSCHE FUSSBALL LIGA / Simon Hofmann
Catch him if you can: Timo Werner has been in irrepressible form for RB Leipzig recently, spearheading the team's charge up the table. - © © DFL DEUTSCHE FUSSBALL LIGA / Simon Hofmann

Timo Werner's return to form leading RB Leipzig's return to the top

How do you go from 14th in the table during the last international break to second place during this one? Easy if, like RB Leipzig, you have a fit and firing Timo Werner in your team.

This time a month ago the mood at the Red Bull Arena was about as cheerful as the grey autumnal skies now enveloping much of Germany, with Ralf Rangnick's side seemingly unable to dispel the gloom.

Their 4-1 opening defeat to Borussia Dortmund was a chastening experience, while the subsequent 1-1 draw at home to promoted side Fortuna Düsseldorf confirmed the impression that they were very much a work in progress – despite the team having already played eight competitive games by that point after successfully navigating the UEFA Europa League qualifying rounds.

Ralf Rangnick and his RB Leipzig side made a slow start to the Bundesliga season. - © gettyimages / Streubel / Bongarts

Werner was barely involved in those, featuring in just two of the six European matches after his exertions at the 2018 FIFA World Cup, and, by his own admission, was not at his best once the Bundesliga got under way.

"As I didn't play much in pre-season I'm slowly working my way back to full fitness," he said after the draw with Düsseldorf, his fourth straight outing of the early season without finding the net. "Playing for 90 minutes is a good way of getting me there. We just have to keep working hard."

His efforts paid off and Werner duly hit a brace in Leipzig's next game, a 3-2 win at home to Hannover. However, any suggestions that the result might be a turning point for the team proved to be premature after a 3-2 reverse at home to sister club Red Bull Salzburg in the Europa League a few days later.

That prompted a rare public rebuke from Rangnick, who criticized his team's attitude. However, his words – alongside the introduction of a 'punishment wheel' to promote team spirit and discipline - have certainly had the desired effect.

And even if Werner himself was not the intended target – Rangnick was in fact very complimentary of the Germany international in September, saying his "form has definitely been going in the right direction," – the former Stuttgart striker has been leading by example anyway.

Watch: See why Werner is a September Player of the Month nominee

Werner has since scored two and set up another two in a period that has coincided with a sharp upturn in the team's results: Leipzig are unbeaten in their five games since the defeat to Salzburg. A respectable 1-1 draw away to a tough Eintracht Frankfurt side was followed by Bundesliga wins over VfB Stuttgart, Hoffenheim, a thumping 6-0 thrashing of Nuremberg, and victory over Rosenborg in the Europa League.

They have scored 14 goals over that period, conceding just three, to sit second in the Bundesliga standings behind Dortmund. Indeed, BVB's own prowess, coupled with Bayern Munich's recent form dip, have understandably dominated the footballing conversation in Germany of late, meaning Die Roten Bullen's turbo-charged sprint up the table has almost slipped by unnoticed.

Watch: Highlights of Leipzig's 6-0 win over Nuremberg

That is unlikely to be the case for much longer. After all, Leipzig now have just one point less than at the same stage of their debut 2016/17 Bundesliga campaign – when they went on to finish as runners-up.

"We're on the right path to becoming a proper team, that much is obvious," said Rangnick after the Nuremberg game. "We're not there yet though, both in terms of the development of the team and individual players." Given the progress made over the last month, where might Leipzig be come the November international break?

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