If reports are to be believed, Timo Werner is likely to join Liverpool once the transfer window opens. The move that many have touted for years may be about to finally materialize.
There is no doubting Werner’s quality. He has already scored 27 goals in Julian Nagelsman’s all-action RB Leipzig side this season, which is his best ever tally. This is despite football’s postponement due to the Coronavirus. His 21 league goals mean that he is third on the list of goalscorers in Europe’s top 5 leagues.
If he could replicate this goal scoring form for Liverpool, it is without a doubt that he would go down as a club legend.
It is important to note that with Liverpool’s aims to compete on all fronts, Jurgen Klopp does rotate his team regularly. While he most often plays a 4-3-3, Liverpool at times line out in a 4-2-3-1. At times, particularly when defending a lead late in a game, Klopp tweaks his system to a 4-4-2. So there are numerous possibilities when trying to fit this versatile forward into the reigning European Champions’ eleven.
Let’s take a look at how Jurgen Klopp could introduce Werner to his Liverpool line-up, should he join. Of course, that is not a certainty as anything can indeed happen in this crazy game. But, assuming he does, there are some tantalizing options.
Firstly, an intriguing option is to attempt to fit Werner in with the already iconic existing front 3. Should Liverpool have a big game and a fully fit, in form squad, then you can be sure that many fans will clamour for this particular line-up. The reason: why not get your best eleven players on the pitch?
With the now regular goalkeeper and defensive unit of Alisson, Trent Alexander-Arnold, Joe Gomez, Virgil van Dijk and Andy Robertson unlikely to change (assuming Gomez’s fitness), this system could see Liverpool have the world’s best front four on top of one of the world’s best back fours.
With a defensive, hard-working double pivot of Fabinho and Jordan Henderson, the front four would have a solid base behind them so they would be free to do as much damage as they please. Of course, Gini Wijnaldum could easily slot in for either man and little would change. The same could be said for James Milner.
If Liverpool face a very defensive side and struggle to break a team down, a fit Naby Keita would be the ideal man to slot in here, in the same position he played when he was Werner’s teammate for RB Leipzig. They linked up superbly in Germany, and it would excite many if they could rekindle this relationship for the Reds.
While Keita has shown flashes of his ability and actually appeared to be first choice when fully fit, he does appear to be injured all the time. If he could remain fit and improve his defensive discipline, pairing him with Henderson or Fabinho could be the best option, no matter the opposition. Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain would be another alternative in this case.
Roberto Firmino could drop out of the false 9 role and into the number 10 position. Firmino has done this superbly in the past so this would not be an issue. He can press, track back, and link up with both the 9 in front of him and the two wingers to his side.
Sadio Mané and Mo Salah can take their natural wing positions, with Werner in the centre forward position between them. Each man in this front 3 is a proven goalscorer, and should they connect to full effect, the results would be devastating.
One issue may be Mo Salah, who does not play on the right-wing whenever Liverpool play a 4-2-3-1, instead moving to the number 9 position. Perhaps he lacks the energy to track back, unlike Sadio Mané. Yes, he plays right-wing in a 4-3-3, but it is different because there are three in midfield to do his defensive work. In a 4-2-3-1, there are only two.
However, if Klopp and his coaching staff decide that Salah can play off the right, then the 4-2-3-1 may be the right system for the majority of Liverpool’s games next season.
Front 3 Rotation
As noted previously, Liverpool usually play with the 4-3-3 system. In fact, the majority of the world’s best teams play this system. It is the formation that has gained the club so much success since Klopp became manager in 2015. So perhaps it would be best to avoid a change from this winning formula.
One of Werner’s many plus points is his versatility. While he is best as a number 9, he can also play off the left wing as he has a number of times for Leipzig.
This, combined with Klopp’s knack for player management and ensuring that everyone gets a good rest between games, means that Werner would be sure to get a lot of game time.
This means that he would be ideal cover for every one of Salah, Mané and Firmino.
He could play through the middle if Firmino needed a rest. Werner may not possess the same link up play as the Brazilian, but a Salah, Werner, Mané front three would still be a match for any in the world.
Should Mané be taken out for a game, Werner could play off the left. Liverpool do not play with natural wingers, instead relying on the full backs to provide width. The inverted left winger/left forward role would suit the 24 year old perfectly. He could interchange with Firmino to keep the opposition guessing. If Salah needed a rest, Mané could move to the right and allow Werner to stay on the left in the same role.
Another important point to make is that the 2021 African Cup of Nations is set to be played in January and February, meaning Liverpool could well be without Salah and Mané for numerous important games. The Reds would need top class players to come in for these games, so Werner would be the perfect man to soften this blow.
Cup Games/Off the Bench
Should Timo Werner sign for Liverpool, it is unlikely that he will be thrown straight into the starting team.
Jurgen Klopp likes to bed his signings into the team, as was seen with Andy Robertson and Fabinho. This gives the player time to settle in their new surroundings and adapt to their new role in a new team, and in this case, new country.
He will probably see most of his action in the first few months in cup games or off the bench.
When Liverpool play League Cup games, you will often see a completely changed starting team. It is common to see a second string outfit in these early rounds.
Werner could make up a front three with Divock Origi, Takumi Minamino or even Xherdan Shaqiri in the apparently unlikely scenario in which the Swiss winger stays at the club. It would allow him to find form and adapt to the new tactics in a less pressurized environment.
Werner will also make some appearances from the bench. Should Liverpool be searching for a winner, Klopp could utilize the German’s penalty box prowess in the hope that a chance falls his way.
Should Liverpool be trying to hold onto a lead, Werner’s pace would be extremely useful on the counter-attack to try and extend said lead. This could mean a 4-4-2 as this is the formation that Liverpool often finish games in when defending a goal lead. He and Salah up front with two banks of four behind them would be ideal for counter-attacking football.
Whatever way Liverpool decide to use Timo Werner, should he sign from RB Leipzig, it is clear that he would be a shrewd acquisition.