Can Julian Nagelsmann take Timo Werner to the next level?
Background image: Markus Unger, CC BY 2.5
Should I stay or should I go? The Clash’s iconic song probably featured in heavy rotation on Timo Werner’s summer playlist. At 23 years-old, the German definitely is nearing the end of his developmental phase and verging on his peak years. His dilemma is whether to spend them overcoming the odds at RB Leipzig or living like a king with Bayern Munich?
Trophies wait at the Allianz Arena but so does heavier competition and pressure to perform. Ask Mario Gomez. Even so, signing for Bayern is taking the easy way out. Julian Nagelsmann obviously relayed hopes for him to stay and perhaps that will work with the transfer window clock ticking out.
A year ago when the 32-year-old Hoffenheim gaffer was confirmed as Leipzig's future manager, Werner called him “the best coach in Germany”. Either way, then, Werner will play for the best. German legend Miroslav Klose spent years honing his craft at Kaiserslautern and then Werder Bremen before signing for Die Roten. The 23-year-old has time to work with Nagelsmann then move on to Bavaria.
Die Roten Bullen are no minnows like Kaiserslautern. They’re regularly in the top four. They challenged for the title in their first Bundesliga campaign. Under Nagelsmann, they could do it again.
If the early signs point towards anything, he’s going to grow into a more nuanced striker.
In Nagelsmann’s system, Die Roten Bullen play a much more attractive attacking style. In his preferred 3-4-1-2 formation, Leipzig dominate possession, move the ball with fluidity and create space for the centre-forwards. Werner is already passing the ball more accurately and showing a creative spark.
Of course, it’d be foolish to compare a few games’ heroics with his impact in the Ralf Ragnick era but the youngster is trending towards something more than a finisher in the new set-up. He’s more confident with his overall contribution. His finishing skills look better. Ask Union Berlin about his emphatic strike against them.
At Hoffenheim, Nagelmann increased the effectiveness of Andrej Kramaric, Ishak Belfodil and Joelinton. While that hasn't translated well for Joelinton at Newcastle, it's fair to say Steve Bruce doesn't share Nagelsmann's philosophy. It can't be denied that the German specialises in polishing uncut gems. That shouldn't stop with Werner.
The German international’s importance to Leipzig is also unmatched. Granted, Yusuf Poulsen emerged as a prominent striker but the Dane is more of a target-man meant for hold-up play and releasing those around him than a prime scorer. Jean-Kevin Augustine shows promise but lacks consistency. Werner can be relied upon to provide the goods upfront, especially against intimidating opposition. Losing him now would severely curtail Nagelmann’s impact.
Werner enjoys life at Leipzig. Moving means losing the intuitive connection with Marcel Sabitzer, Emil Forsberg and Poulsen. With a more dynamic attack, he stands to breach the 25-goal threshold in 2018/19.
His best tally  came in his debut season with Die Roten Bullen. It’s since gone downhill, but Nagelsmann will tune his system according to Werner’s needs. Hoffenheim outscored Leipzig last season. With more multi-talented, clever players in his arsenal, the boss should do even better.
One can’t blame Werner for being tempted by Bayern. He’ll win championships, get paid more and play at the top for years to come. However, rushing into a decision could create consequences, halting his momentum. A future at Bayern might be on the horizon. For now, it’s better to feel the ground at his feet.