September 23, 2017

A Talent for the (near) Future: Johannes Eggestein

The German U-17 national team reached the final of the UEFA U-17 European Championship in Bulgaria back in May, but fell 4-1 to a talented French side. Despite falling short of the title, the tournament run brought to the fore a generation of young players destined for some great things. One of the most prominent of them is Johannes Eggestein.

A 17-year-old striker in the SV Werder Bremen youth ranks, Johannes Eggestein is the younger brother of Maximilian, who has already featured for the first team on several occasions. The younger Eggestein joined the Green-Whites from TSV Havelse in the summer of 2013 and won the top-scorer award in the B-Jugend (Under 17) North Bundesliga two years in a row. His scoring rate is nothing short of incredible, having scored 20 goals in 26 games in his first season since he joined the Weser side at the age of 15. He added 22 goals in 25 games with the U17 side this season, as well as 6 goals in 2 games with the U19 side.

Strengths and Weaknesses

Eggestein is an all-around forward, not the poacher his scoring records suggest. He has good technique on the ball, with the ability to take on defenders in various situations, he is always useful in the build-up play (averaged 31 passes a game, 1.6 key passes per 90 minutes with a passing accuracy of 82%), and is incredibly mobile in the final third. He doesn’t make an impact only inside the box, but he’s often active on both flanks throughout the game and regularly swaps positions with other attackers.

Passing stats of Johannes Eggestein compared to other striker prospects who are slightly older
Passing stats of Johannes Eggestein compared to other striker prospects who are slightly older. This graph was created by Constantin Eckner.

Eggestein has the required first-touch, predatory instinct, and finishing ability to make it at the very top. He is not the fastest attacker on the pitch, but he is crafty and has good intelligence on and off the ball. One of his biggest strengths is the ability to play with his back to the goal, making himself available to receive the pass and turn or lay-off under pressure.

Otherwise, aerial ability doesn’t happen to be one of his strengths, and Eggestein has shown difficulties dealing with more physical defenders. In order to adapt better at a professional level, Eggestein may also need to add weapons to his arsenal. Since he has a strong desire to drop deep and link up with teammates, having powerful long shots will also help his scoring rate.

Physique and Coordination

Standing 1.82m (6 ft.) tall, Eggestein has an adequate size for his position. Having just turned 17 in May, there remains a strong chance that he has not yet stopped growing.

With teams generally playing single-striker formations such as 4-1-4-1 or 4-2-3-1 these days, most managers prefer strikers with a “full package” as their only front man, with size certainly being an important part of that package. When a team only has one starting striker up top, they have higher requirements for their centre-forwards.

VfB Stuttgart’s Timo Werner, known for his poaching ability, is never used as a centre forward for his club. Managers believe he is too small for the position and prefer strikers with a certain degree of aerial advantage. Less-physical forwards are usually turned into wingers, but they do not always find the transition easy. Werner is a perfect example of that.

While Johannes Eggestein has adequate size for the centre-forward position, his size is slightly below average for strikers nowadays. As a lone striker up top, Eggestein may find it difficult to deal with bigger and more-physical defenders. Against taller centre backs, when Eggestein has no aerial advantage at all, crossing is no longer an option and limits the team’s ideas of getting the ball to him.

A Solution for Löw?

Johannes Eggestein’s all-around game can be reminiscent of Miroslav Klose and Robert Lewandowski, rather than a pure poacher like Thomas Müller or a targetman like Mario Gomez. Eggestein’s game has met the requirements of modern-day strikers: he is mobile, has good vision, is competent at link-up play, is able to play with his back to the goal, has impressive technique, and has excellent dribbling skills, which allows him to take on defenders when needed. Beyond all of that, he is a lethal finisher, which makes him more suitable to a style of play that prizes possession over a more-direct approach.

Everyone in Germany has been longing for a successor to Klose in recent years. Mario Gomez, Pierre-Michel Lasogga, and Max Kruse come to mind, but none of them can provide the same impact as Klose could in his prime. Perhaps Johannes Eggestein is the eventual answer to this long-lasting striker problem Joachim Löw has faced in recent years, a problem which has gained prominence since Klose’s retirement. We will have to wait and see.

Johannes Eggestein (#9), despite not having the ideal height at the center forward position, may add height and muscle still at his young age
Johannes Eggestein (#9), despite not having the ideal height at the center forward position, may add height and muscle still at his young age

Header courtesy of dfb.de

Please check out Constantin Eckner’s blog.

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Silas Swarbrick

Silas Swarbrick was born in Abingdon, Oxfordshire, U.K. but moved to Düsseldorf at the age of 3. Since 1990, he's been watching the Bundesliga closely. Because of the German talent drought in the 90s, he's devoted himself to following the development of German youngsters, even developing close connections with youth coaches for several Bundesliga clubs. Over the years, he's proudly witnessed the rise of stars from Bierhoff and Klose, to Timo Werner, Julian Brandt, and Goretzka more recently, to the coming-soon-talent of Johannes Eggestein.