Under the Radar: FC Augsburg's Tobias Werner
It’s been a whirlwind season for FC Augsburg, transforming themselves from relegation battle also-rans into a strong mid-table outfit, and with six games left to play, Markus Weinzierl’s men have jettisoned the bottom half and are pretty much guaranteed a strong mid-table finish, with European qualification just out of reach. Weinzierl himself is a talented manager, with a good grounding in tactics and a great way of man-management allowing him to really bring the best out of his squad, many of whom had been perpetual 2. Bundesliga players until a few years ago.
One of those men who’s really seen the best football of his career this season is left winger Tobias Werner. Werner, who turns 29 in July, hasn’t really had much of a media spotlight shone upon him this season, with his right-sided counterpart, Mönchengladbach-bound André Hahn, taking many of the plaudits with his particular season. But in a team who, to the outside eye, don’t really have many players who stand out among the rest, Tobias Werner has taken a leading role in the Augsburg team, alongside the likes of Hahn, midfielder Daniel Baier, and full back Matthias Ostrzolek, with whom he has an excellent partnership down the left flank.
All the more sensational about Werner’s rise this season is the previous paths his career has taken. While Ostrzolek was highly rated at Bochum before his 2012 transfer to FCA, and André Hahn had been cast aside by Hamburg and played his way up through the lower leagues with Oberneuland, Koblenz and Offenbach, Tobias Werner has been with the club since 2008, his career following a similar trajectory to that of Augsburg’s own. Werner fought his way up through the leagues with previous club Carl Zeiss Jena, starting in the Oberligen (then the fourth tier of German football) and eventually reaching the 2. Bundesliga following back to back promotions with the East German club. After a mid-table finish in their first season, in which Werner scored three and assisted two in 26 games, Jena dropped back down to the third tier. However, Werner had earned a move elsewhere, as Augsburg came knocking.
Werner had a great first season with Augsburg, missing only two games all season (still his career best), and finding the scoresheet often. But following an injury in his sophomore season, he began to play less, and with Augsburg having such a good season that year, he found it hard to break back into the team. However, break back in he did, and Werner became an important component of the team who won promotion to the Bundesliga in 10/11, and the sides who kept the club up in the Bundesliga for two years running.
That said, it’s undeniable that 13/14 has been Tobias Werner’s best season in football by far. Breaking back into the first team in late September following some positive appearances as a substitute earlier in the season, Werner never looked back, producing some stunning performances in both pushing his team forwards, and also in supporting other important players – the likes of Ostrzolek, Hahn and Baier included. He wrote his name into the Augsburg history books in March, becoming their first player to score four consecutive Bundesliga goals for them (which he did in four consecutive games, too, a hint at his consistency), all against quality opposition – Mönchengladbach, Schalke, Wolfsburg and Leverkusen are no mugs, and Werner had what it took to be a thorn in all of their sides on consecutive matchdays. Perhaps his most impressive game, however, came earlier in the Rückrunde against relegation-threatened Stuttgart. In sublime style, linking up well with his full back before cutting in from the left and squaring the ball neatly, Werner set up Arkadiusz Milik to open the scoring against the Swabians, before adding one of his own after yet more neat interplay with full back Ostrzolek. Werner and Ostrzolek’s interplay has been excellent whenever they’ve played together this season, but it was exemplified in that game, where they played the Stuttgart right hand side off the park; nullifying Maxim and terrorising Sakai. It was a frightening watch, and Augsburg looked really good for Europe at that point in the season, especially with Hahn also firing on all cylinders, grabbing a brace.
However, these things come to an end; Augsburg’s form dropped off in the big games, despite Werner’s scoring form, and Werner sustained a nasty injury against Mainz which should rule him out for a few weeks, if not the rest of the season. Nevertheless, 13/14 will have been a season to remember for the ex Jena man, having really pushed on and grabbed people’s attention, making Augsburg a firm neutral’s favourite. Whether Werner will leave for pastures new is another question entirely – with his advancing years, it’s perhaps less likely that a big club will try and pick up a bargain like they already have with André Hahn, but it is abundantly clear that Werner has the talent to play for many Bundesliga clubs. From a neutral perspective, though, it’d be great to see him continue at Augsburg for a few years, allowing the club to kick on from an excellent campaign, and with any luck, maintaining the nucleus of a side that is in real danger of being picked apart, just like Freiburg were last season.
Whatever happens, it’ll be exciting to see what Werner does next.
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