Are Liverpool and Timo Werner a good match?
Background image: Polo Metz. CC BY 1.0.
Timo Werner's situation at RB Leipzig demands attention. While the club's finances are stable, they certainly are a selling side. Rumours linking their best player away from the squad is hardly surprising. Since his arrival at RB Leipzig in 2016, the German has scored 71 goals in 117 appearances. With a release clause of £49m, it's a no brainer for almost any team to sign him. It's rumoured that Manchester United, Barcelona and Liverpool are interested in acquiring Werner's talents over the summer. Right now, it seems like the Anfield outfits are the early frontrunners.
But, are they a good match?
Liverpool’s front three is always being praised. Rightly so, too. Since Phillippe Coutinho’s departure, Sadio Mane, Mohamed Salah and Roberto Firmino have produced astronomical amounts of goals and assists. It helped the Red Men reach the Champions League finals twice, winning the second one. Their first Premier League title is only a matter of time.
Firmino, amongst the three, probably garners the least attention. The Brazilian isn't a typical goal-scoring number nine who is lethal in front of the ball. Rather, he's lacking that clinical touch. Right now, Firmino underperforms his league xG of 14.26 - netting just eight goals.
He records more assists  than goals  across all competitions this season. He is selfless and make no mistake about it, his hold-up play greatly benefits both Mane and Salah.
Firmino is 28. Mane and Salah both turn 28 in the summer. Xherdan Shaqiri is expected to leave the club when the window opens while Takumi Minamino’s start to life in England has been average at best. He will improve, sure, but it will take extreme levels of hard work, time and patience. A team as good as Liverpool, to sustain their success, need sound and well-timed replacements.
Activating Werner’s release clause seems like a huge leap in the right direction. Only Kylian Mbappe has more xG or xA in Europe than Werner for players who are 25 years or above. However, Werner’s skill set is quite different from FIrmino’s. The former is prolific in front of goal, takes more shots and gets into dangerous areas. Leipzig doesn't press relentlessly like Jurgen Klopp’s men do, meaning that despite all his talents, it may take a season or so to adjust. Having him learn and work alongside Firmino for a year before the Brazilian passes on the baton could well prove to be a masterstroke.
Werner recently turned 24 and is approaching his peak years. He wouldn’t replace Firmino straight up. The Brazilain forward has proven he has what it takes to performing well in the Premier League. Coming from a situation where Werner was the first names on the team-sheet, moving to a place where he'd be in and out of the side isn't something he'd particularly like...
An argument could be made that Liverpool plays in five competitions across the season and they need squad depth. Werner gets an opportunity to be coached by someone who is best in the business to help players perform exceedingly well. After all, Firmino knew nothing about the role he is playing right now when he was at Hoffenheim. Its tactical ingenuity of the former Borussia Dortmund boss. It all depends on whether the striker is willing to play that secondary role as opposed to being the main man.
Ambition comes at a cost. While the current setup is perfect, Liverpool needs to think forward. Some might believe Firmino will be able to play three or four seasons more at this elite level. That may be true. What's also correct is Werner will add another dimension to Klopp's squad.
The German coach tried a 4-2-3-1 earlier this season with Salah up front, Firmino behind him and Shaqiri on the right. WIth Werner involved, Salah could stay on the right and Werner could sit ahead of Firmino. Patrik Schick plays a similar role at Leipzig at times.
At £49million and both parties seeming keen on the move, this is a signing that could take Liverpool to that next level...