With Miroslav Klose, Germany’s main striker since 2002, long since retired, it’s fallen to Timo Werner to lead the line.
The RB Leipzig forward is stepping into big shoes, but the 22-year-old has been seen as a hot prospect for a number of years. At Stuttgart, he became the youngest player in the Bundesliga to score a brace and reach 50 appearances at the age of 19.
He was only given his first cap in 2017, but he’s quickly made the position his own. This is partly down to Germany’s lack of options in the centre-forward role and partly down to his own talent.
Background and style
Werner started his career at Stuttgart, becoming their youngest player to feature in an official match when he came on during a Europa League qualifier in August 2013. The then-17-year-old went on to make 30 league appearances that season, 16 of them as a starter, scoring four and getting five assists.
After featuring heavily for another two seasons, he moved to RB Leipzig in 2016/17 in what was an explosive, name-announcing year for both player and team. Werner scored 21 in the equivalent of 27.1 games (2435 minutes) to help the newly promoted Leipzig to second place.
After starting his career as more of a winger, Werner has become a straightforward forward at Leipzig.
His Player Persona diagram (above), his on-target percentage (46.3 per cent) and his xG (expected goals) value per shot (0.15) are all those of a striker who spends their time in front of goal getting his team’s best chances, rather than setting them up.
Seventy-nine per cent of his total xG contribution came from chances he took himself (0.45 per 90 minutes), a noticeably smaller share (0.12 per 90) made up of shots he assists.
Werner’s most recent season wasn’t as headline-grabbing as his 2016/17. He scored a much more modest 13 league goals, although his number of assists increased from five to eight.
However, his underlying statistics remained almost identical, so these differences seem likely to be the kind of natural variation that all strikers go through.
He scored three goals for Germany in qualifying in just two appearances, against Norway and the Czech Republic, while also scoring in last November’s friendly against France.
In Werner’s small amount of minutes in qualifying, his production was higher than it has been for Leipzig, although it will likely fall to similar levels with more playing time.
His 3.4 shots and 6.9 touches in the opposition box per 90 for Leipzig are good, but for Die Mannschaft he was posting stats of 4.5 and 8.0 respectively.
Although his goal-scoring record has dropped this season, his continued good performances and emergence as a primary striking choice for his country has seen big clubs sniffing around him.
Why Werner will make an impact at the 2018 World Cup
At just 22 years of age, Werner could find himself as the main striker for the tournament favourites in Russia.
At Euro 2016, the job was mainly shared by Mario Gómez and Mario Götze. However, the former is now 32 and has rarely featured for Germany since that tournament while the latter has suffered with injuries to the extent that he won’t even be in Russia.
Werner’s progressed through the ranks quickly. He was given his first full cap in a friendly against England in March 2017 and months later he left Russia with the Confederations Cup Golden Boot.
As holders, Germany will be expected to go far in the tournament, but they haven’t won a match since their final qualifier against Azerbaijan last October. Friendlies against England, France, and Spain ended in draws, while their last two outings saw losses against Brazil and Austria.
Friendlies see a degree of experimentation but, given that Germany scored just four goals in these five games, Werner’s performance in Russia could be the key for Die Mannschaft’s chances.