Timo Werner

Julian Nagelsmann on why Werner had to change to become a 'modern' striker

The highly-respected coach is sad to see his player move to the Premier League but knows adapting his game has made him better

11:40am on Tuesday 16th June 2020
Paul Macdonald

Earlier in the season, before Timo Werner had all but confirmed his transfer to Chelsea, RB Leipzig coach Julian Nagelsmann discussed how Werner had adapted his game.

But Nagelsmann also explained that the position of forward has changed dramatically even in the last 10 years. Forwards can no longer simply put the ball in the net; they have to contribute to the entire team buildup.

Nagelsmann's quotes on No. 9's are interesting and can give an insight that if a team plays a single forward, they need to bring so much more than goals.

In an interview with the Bundesliga earlier in the season, he said of the forward position: "Strikers are definitely more involved in the build-up than before. In days gone by there were many classic 'penalty-box' strikers who were primarily responsible for putting away crosses and cutbacks.

"Today you’re much more involved in the combinations. You need all 10 outfield players involved to create chances, and the striker is often tasked with changing positions.

"Now there’s a new positional profile with the nine-and-a-half, a bit more like the old No. 10, where you go between the lines and don’t just play as the buffer up front like in old times. It’s changed a bit."

Nagelsmann also heaps praise on Mario Gomez as being one of the first to become more multi-dimensional but he adds that the position has evolved further even in the past few years, and points to a few reasons why:

He continues: "The athletic side of the sport is a bit different. When you look at Werner or Lewandowski, they’re total athletes.

"Gerd Muller was unbelievable in the box, very powerful, and he had a very good eye for goal, he held the ball up. I’m not sure he would score as many goals if he were playing today – nowadays, you need incredible athleticism and dynamism like Timo Werner or Robert Lewandowksi, or Mario Gomez, who had amazing movement, I think he was one of the first strikers who always moved against the defenders as they shifted around, which wasn’t so easy for a defence.

"Things have changed a bit even more since Mario Gomez was in his pomp, but he was a good role model, and you can see how the dynamics have changed so much.

"Gerd Muller scored, 95 per cent of his goals from inside the box and he was set up by teammates for many situations, but nowadays when you look at Timo Werner or Lewandowski, who are always drifting out to the wings, you can see how much the profile and the movement of strikers has really changed."

It's clear from Nagelsmann thoughts that not only is the idea of comparing era pointless, but that a forward can't be just a forward any more. The position is now a No. 9.5.


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