Is Timo Werner a good finisher?

There is has been a lot of attention placed at the door of Timo Werner recently, especially in the midst of an agreed move to Chelsea for a reported £50 million transfer fee. This has led to a lot of criticism around his recent performances, especially against Paderborn last weekend, some going as far as to suggest that Werner is not an elite finisher, and only scores goals because of the number of chances he is provided by the rest of his team. Therefore, I have taken it upon myself to test this hypothesis using the data I have available to me.

It is first worth establishing that RB Leipzig are an elite team in terms of chance creation. They are second in the league (behind Bayern Munich would you believe) for Total Shots p90, Shots on Target p90 and Non-Penalty xG, and joint-second for Non-Penalty xG per shot. They also do finish a lot of the chances that they create, being the third highest scorers in the division and joint-second for Non-Penalty Goals minus Non-Penalty xG. As for Werner himself, he is second in the league for Goals Scored, Shots on Target p90, xG and Non-Penalty xG, all behind Robert Lewandowski, and third for Total Shots p90. This makes sense, as obviously Werner is the focal point of RB’s attack, and would therefore contribute highly to the team’s shot numbers.

 It starts to get interesting however when you look at the difference between his Non-Penalty goals scored and Non-Penalty xG, a statistic commonly used to measure how clinical a player is in front of goal. Using this metric, Werner drops to 9th in the Bundesliga, now behind the likes of Erling Braut Håland, his teammate Patrik Schick and the league’s runaway leader in this metric, Jadon Sancho. Although this may seem like a sign that Werner is under-performing, it is worth noting that this value is still +3.7, meaning that he has scored nearly 4 goals more than he was predicted to score using StatsBomb’s xG model. When compared to all the players in European Top 5 leagues that have scored 10 goals or more this season, Werner is 14th out of 65, and he maintains this whilst taking the 13th most Shots p90. In fact, there are only 3 players that out-perform Werner whilst taking more Shots p90; the previously mentioned Lewandowski, Josip Iličić, a man who his having the season of his life for an attacking Atlanta side, and Lionel Messi.

Players with 10+ goals in European Top 5 Leagues compared on Total Shots p90 against Non-penalty Goals – xG

Another thing to mention is that, despite being framed as a weakness, the amount of shots that Werner takes can generally be seen as a positive, especially if they’re being taken from good positions. If we look at Non-Penalty xG per Shot, Werner sits at joint 20th in the Bundesliga with 0.17, a respectable position for someone with his volume of shots. For comparison, Lewandowski sits at joint 12th with just 0.01 npxG/Shot higher, and Serge Gnabry, who is ahead of Werner for Total Shots p90, is down in joint 47th with 0.13. He comes of even better when we compare him to 10+ goal players, finishing joint 18th, above both Iličić and Messi.

Players with 10+ goals in European Top 5 Leagues compared on Total Shots p90 against xG per Shot

 So, in conclusion, is this a fair claim to make about Timo Werner? Based on the data at hand, I would argue that not only is this assumption incorrect, but also that the value being paid for him is far less than what should be expected based on his age and ability. Not only is he getting a large number of high quality chances, both due to his team and his own excellent off-the-ball movement, he is also converting these at a rate higher than his xG would suggest. I also feel that it is fair to say that due to the amount of shots he is taking, that it would be unfair to rule out his scoring streak as pure luck, and therefore, given the opportunity, he should carry on in the same form going forward. The key will be now for Chelsea, if the transfer goes through, is making sure they play Werner in a system that plays to his strengths: his ability to run in behind and finishing ability in the box. If they can do that, then Lampard and the rest of the team will have found a striker that will score plenty of goals for them for a long period of time.

Data taken from fbref.com

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