Why Timo Werner is perfect for Liverpool
Everyone knows all about Timo Werner.
He’s been perpetually linked with a move to Liverpool ever since his debut season with RB Leipzig. Over recent weeks, the noise has increased and it feels as though it’s a matter of when and not if the German international makes the switch to Merseyside.
However, many aren’t appreciating just how useful Werner would be for Liverpool. He’s being pigeonholed as a goalscorer and nothing more. That isn’t necessarily a negative, some players build their careers on the fact they’re a goalscorer, but such a tag is doing a disservice to the 24-year-old.
Yes, since his move to Germany’s most hated club, the former VfB Stuttgart man has scored goals at an alarming rate. His final season with his boyhood club saw him underperform his expected goals total by almost 50%. He’s been righting that wrong for some time now.
It’s almost like he went from wasteful to ruthless overnight. After his treble against Mainz on Saturday, Werner’s tally for Julian Nagelsmann’s side in the German top flight this term stands at 24. It’s comfortably his most productive season ever. He’s now plundered 74 goals in the Bundesliga for Leipzig since the start of the 2016/17 campaign.
But beyond the goals, there’s much more to Werner as a player. He started life as a left-winger, he was moved into the centre-forward role under Ralph Hasenhüttl and now Nagelsmann has rounded his game by deploying him as a false-nine at times this season. It makes sense, too. As a winger, he was tasked with creating space and opportunities for team-mates. Nagelsmann has looked to harness that unselfishness and realised that using him across the final third is the best way to facilitate that.
Before this campaign, Werner would often start centrally and drift to the left by default. This season, though, Werner is popping up all over the place and it’s why his expected assist (xA) total is the highest it’s ever been. Heading into the 2019/20 campaign, Werner’s xA average per 90 for Die Rotten Bullen was 0.16 across three seasons. This year it’s coming in at 0.35. He’s doubled his threat as a creator. For context, Mohamed Salah’s best season for Liverpool, in terms of xA90, saw him finish with an average of 0.29. In his final season with Roma he had an xA90 average of 0.35. But it’s worth remembering that the Liverpool No.11 was used as a winger in Rome, wide players are often tasked with more creative duties. The fact Werner is managing this as a centre-forward is quite remarkable.
The 24-year-old finished the match against SC Freiburg, a 1-1 draw, with five key passes. He racked up an xA total of 1.14 and this was on his first outing post the lockdown being lifted. He then followed that up with three goals against Mainz, also registering two key passes and finishing the match with an xA total of 0.67.
Werner is on course to hit double figures in assists and potentially finish the campaign with 30 goals. A 40 goal involvement season would put him up there with the elite. Robert Lewandowski will likely pip him to the Torjägerkanone award but the Bayern hitman won’t get close to Werner when looking at goal involvements at the current rate both are playing at.
Werner’s versatility makes him the ideal signing for Jurgen Klopp, but so does his output. If he signs for the Premier League leaders, they’ll have a serious player on their hands.