A vital cog at the heart of Wolfsburg’s resurgence
By Andrew Asher
Despite impressing in his first season in the German top flight, Patrick Wimmer couldn't save Arminia Bielefeld from relegation last summer. The promising youngster then moved to Wolfsburg, where he has taken the next step in his development.
According to Sky Germany, as a result of Arminia’s relegation, VfL Wolfsburg were able to complete the signing of Wimmer for the cut price €5 million in the summer, due to a release clause in his contract. Since joining die Wölfe, the youngster has taken his game to the next level and has impressed once again in the German top flight. He is a vital part of a Wolfsburg team who have been in sublime form this season and find themselves in the hunt for European qualification.
In 31 Bundesliga games last season, Wimmer scored three goals and assisted his teammates eight times. In comparison, after 17 games this season, Wimmer has already matched last term’s goal tally and is on six assists for the campaign. The pacey winger is on course to smash both tallies come the end of this season.
A tremendous creator, both in open play and from dead-ball situations, the Austrian international ranks in the 87th percentile for assists per 90, the 89th percentile for expected assists per 90 and the 99th percentile for set-pieces leading to goals per 90 (FBref). According to OptaFranz, in January of this year, Wimmer was second only to Manchester City’s Kevin De Bruyne in big chances created per game (players with 500+ minutes) in Europe’s top five leagues. He was one of only three players to create over one chance per 90 mins, Lionel Messi being the third. This is quite an impressive stat considering that both Messi and De Bruyne are a part of teams challenging for their respective league titles.
3 - The only three players from Europe's big five leagues this season to create more than one big chance per game on average (players with 500+ minutes):— OptaFranz (@OptaFranz) January 24, 2023
🥇Kevin De Bruyne - 1.15
🥈Patrick Wimmer - 1.05
🥉Lionel Messi - 1.03
The Wolfsburg winger is a strong 1v1 dribbler and excels in take-on situations. According to FBref, Wimmer ranks in the 79th an 80th percentile for take-ons attempted and successful take-ons per 90 respectively. At 45.1%, his take-on success rate is in the 56th percentile and not necessarily out of the ordinary. However, the sheer number of attempted take-ons means that Wimmer eventually gets his fair share of success and moves into dangerous positions from which he can use his creative prowess. Whilst there is work to be done on the decision making behind when and when not to take players on, there is no doubt that the Austrian international has the ability to beat a man.
Interestingly, Wimmer’s numbers for carries, progressive carries and carrying distance are drastically lower than last season. There are a number of reasons for this drop in carries, one of them being that Wolfsburg coach Niko Kovač likes his team to push higher up the pitch in order to win the ball back and transition quickly to the attack. During his time at Arminia Bielefeld, Wimmer was operating on the right flank in a mid-to-low block where there was plenty of space to run into and drive with the ball after regaining possession. A lot more was asked of the young Austrian in terms of ball carrying and this can be seen comparing this season’s stats with the previous one. Last season, Wimmer was in the 38th percentile for carries, 68th percentile for progressive carries and the 78th percentile for total carrying distance (FBref). Compare that with this season where he is in the 5th, 31st and 13th percentile for each metric respectively.
One aspect of Wimmer’s game that was clearly present last season and has continued into this season is his defensive work. According to FBref, ranks in the 97th percentile for number of tackles per 90 minutes, tackles won per 90 minutes and tackles in the defensive third. He also ranks in the 84th percentile for tackles in the attacking third. In addition to his attacking output, Wimmer offers a valuable defensive aspect to his game, which locks up the right flank for Wolfsburg, as well as helping Kovač’s team to win the ball back high and hurt the opposition.
Across a five-game spell spanning from October to January, Wimmer contributed six goals in five games. The numbers have dwindled slightly since then, but the 21-year-old has had two goal contributions in his last three games, including a late equaliser against high-flyers Union Berlin, just two minutes after coming on.
Wimmer's role under Kovač
Sky Germany calls Wimmer “a kind of prototype for how Niko Kovač imagines football. Young, strong willed, creative”. Operating mainly on the right flank and sporadically from the left, the 21-year-old’s pace, raw ability and creativity are a massive threat for die Wölfe. The blueprint for a Kovač team is hard work, intensity and front-foot football which makes Wimmer the ideal mould of player. His defensive capabilities tied in with his pace aids Kovač in pressing the opposition and turning defence into attack in an instant.
Winning the ball high allows Wimmer to disrupt the opposition defence and commit defenders so that he can create space for his teammates and ultimately create chances and goals. Jasmine Baba, writing for ESPN, points out Wolfsburg’s initial struggles and slow start to this season, whilst players took time to adapt to the intensity under Kovač’s management. Wimmer himself was sidelined at the start of the season due to conclusion, but once he was back in the team, in a new look Wolfsburg approach, Kovač’s plans really started to fall into place. The young winger has been a vital cog this season in Wolfsburg’s unlikely push for European football.
What does the future hold for the Austrian youngster?
According to Transfermarkt, Wimmer has a market value of €8 million, but this does not tell the entire story of the magnificent asset that die Wölfe have on their hands. With bags of ability and at just 21 years of age, Wimmer has a bright future ahead of him. There are aspects of the youngster’s game that are still lacking, but he has proven his desire to work hard and improve year after year. If the Austrian continues on his current trajectory, it won’t be long before the top clubs in Europe come knocking.