It is fair to say that Timo Werner has received more than his fair share of criticism in recent week for a lack of goals for both club and country. He went some way to answering those critics on matchday 8 with two goals. They were however not scored from a central striking position opening up the debate as to where best to play him. The national team need him as a number 9, whereas Marco Rose has other ideas.
Hansi Flick took the step of publicly defending Werner after the Leipzig forward came under heavy criticism following the Nations League defeat to Hungary. “You can’t always blame Timo for everything” the Bundestrainer stressed. “The big question is: do we have a central striker? Timo has high quality. He tried again and again against Hungary. Generally, we didn’t play at the level we’re capable of. That’s why we are not in a nice situation.”
The fact is that Germany need Timo Werner on form and firing in the goals on a regular basis as in Flick’s preferred 4-2-3-1 formation the Leipzig man is the only candidate he has to fill the central striker role unless he plays a ‘false nine’ like he did with Kai Havertz against England. Lukas Nmecha is the other natural striker in the squad, but he doesn’t possess the experience.
While his finishing can be questioned at times, his pace and eye for goal make him the natural choice for the Nationalmannschaft in the number nine role, although some are arguing for a change of tack with Werder Bremen’s Niclas Füllkrug’s name being mentioned.
At club level however, Marco Rose may have stumbled upon a new role for Werner after the 26-year-old ended his five-game scoring drought against VfL Bochum. Playing the same 4-2-3-1 formation as Flick, Rose opted to play Werner in the left-sided slot with Christopher Nkunku behind Andre Silva. Both Nkunku and Werner were permitted to move centrally and forward to join the Portuguese striker, so it wasn’t a traditional winger role Werner was occupying.
It paid off with two goals and the assist for Nkunku’s first penalty. “I find the position coming from a little deeper good for Timo” Rose explained after the Bochum victory. “I think he’s a striker that recognises space and who can use his pace from deep. I don’t believe that Christo [Nkunku] takes anything away from Timo and nor Timo from Christo. Both have unbelievable quality, have pace, find space, and can shoot.”
So, Germany need Timo Werner the number nine to spearhead their attack, while at the same time at club level RB Leipzig are looking to develop him as part of the three behind the striker. What his best position is and how the club versus country conundrum will play out will be observed in the coming weeks as Hansi Flick and Marco Rose look to perfect their own formations.