Füllkrug and Ducksch: the grades and metrics behind Werder Bremen's two-man attack

2PC4JBC Bremen, Deutschland. 12th Mar, 2023. firo: 03/12/2023, football, soccer: 1st Bundesliga: SV Werder Bremen - Bayer Leverkusen Marvin Ducksch, single action., Werder with Niclas Fullkrug on the left Credit: dpa/Alamy Live News

Werder Bremen look set to cement a solid mid-table finish in their first season back in the Bundesliga, clustered with Borussia Mönchengladbach and FC Köln as teams out of reach of European Cup contention but relatively assured of safety from relegation.

And while Werder’s defensive record of 56 goals conceded in 29 games does mirror that of teams facing the threat of playing in Bundesliga 2 next season, their two-man strike duo of Niclas Füllkrug and Marvin Ducksch have provided a two-man threat which has seen Werder score more goals (47) than Union Berlin and SC Freiburg in third and fourth.

Just as it did last season, when Füllkrug and Ducksch combined for 39 goals to take Werder to promotion from the second tier, Ole Werner’s 3-5-2 has posed a threat in the top flight with the two-man attack seeing one operate as a poacher and the other as a shadow striker.

Füllkrug, the poacher, earned selection for Hansi Flick’s World Cup squad last November after scoring ten goals in Werder’s first 13 games back in the Bundesliga. In a 20-minute cameo as a substitute he would prove to be Germany’s saviour by scoring a late equaliser against Spain in the second game of their group stage – finishing that match with the most possessions in the opposition penalty area of any Germany player (4).

For the club whose fans can get drunk on the nostalgia of Miroslav Klose and Claudio Pizarro,  Füllkrug has maintained his form for the duration of the season – never going more than three goals without scoring in the league – to stand atop the Bundesliga’s goalscoring chart with 16 goals, three more than Eintracht Frankfurt’s Randal Kolo Muani.

In contrast, Ducksch has been effective not only in shooting but also crossing as a shadow striker who tends to drift wide. As a result, Ducksch has provided a high level of threat to breed success for Füllkrug as a finisher.

Ducksch, signed from Dortmund in 2021, has attempted 160 crosses – far above the average of 26.6 among strikers (min. 1,000 minutes). High volume which is backed up by high quality as Ducksch ranks first at his position with a PFF crossing grade of 79.7 and is tenth overall, slightly behind Leipzig’s David Raum (80.4) and Dortmund’s Julian Brandt (80.3).

Ahead of Werder’s trip to Schalke this weekend in a battle of last season’s Bundesliga 2’s runners-up versus champions, let’s examine how Füllkrug and Ducksch have both graded in PFF’s data model.

Shooting

Niclas Füllkrug: 90.9 (position rank: 1st/77) / Marvin Ducksch: 82.7 (position rank: 5th/77)

From the start, one thing which stands out about both Füllkrug and Ducksch is their shot volume. Only Gladbach’s Marcus Thuram (87) has attempted more shots on goal than Füllkrug (79) and Ducksch (79), but Thuram has not come close to displaying the same quality with a grade of 66.3.

With Ducksch comfortably leading all strikers in both key passes (52) and chances created (57) – Union’s Sheraldo Becker is the second-best with 32 and 37 – his production has not been wasted on Füllkrug, whose 90.9 shooting grade makes him the only player in the Bundesliga to top the elite 90.0 threshold.

Füllkrug has registered the third-most possessions within the opposition penalty area (131), with Ducksch not too far off in fifth with 119 despite his usage as a crosser. Of the seven strikers to have registered more than 100 possessions in the opposition box, Leipzig are the only other club to have more than one striker present.

By comparison, Ducksch’s shooting grade of 82.7 also places him within the top five-graded strikers in the Bundesliga trailing only his strike partner and Muani, Thuram and Leipzig’s Christopher Nkunku – all players subject to interest from Premier League clubs. Though, Ducksch ranks third when taking into account forwards with a minimum of 40 shot attempts.

Player Club Poss. box p-90 No. of shots Shooting grade
Niclas Füllkrug Werder Bremen 4.8 79 90.9
Michael Gregoritsch SC Freiburg 4.6 61 84.7
Marvin Ducksch Werder Bremen 4.1 79 82.7
Randal Kolo Muani Eintracht Frankfurt 6.2 66 82.0
Mergim Berisha FC Augsburg 4.1 50 78.4
Karim Onisiwo Mainz 05 5.0 58 78.1

With 12 goals thus far, Ducksch is unlikely to hit his tally of 20 for last season, but outside of their two-main attack Werder have amassed 18 goals from 11 different scorers. Thus, his goals have been crucial by may be by design, as both Füllkrug and Ducksch rank low in pressure attempts per-90 at their position.

At 15.0 pressures attempted per-90 and 21.6, Füllkrug and Ducksch fall below the average of 26.0 for strikers, while Werder’s trio of Leanardo Bittencourt (30.4), Ilia Gruev (27.6) and Jens Stage (26.7) all feature in the top 17 midfielders.

Challenge

Niclas Füllkrug: 70.6 (position rank: 2nd/84) / Marvin Ducksch: 59.2 (position rank: 36/84)

If not for Bochum’s Philipp Hofmann, Füllkrug would be an outlier in the number of challenges he has been involved in compared to the rest of the league’s strikers. Hofmann’s figure of 607 challenges even leaves Füllkrug in his shadow at 501, which remains above the average of 244.2 (min. 1,000 minutes played).

Aerial duels account for the majority of Füllkrug’s challenge events but he has been most effective in winning tackles against established ball carriers.

Of the 32 strikers to be involved in 30 tackles or more, Füllkrug leads the way with a win rate of 46% and holds the fourth-best grade at 70.8.

With a different profile to Füllkrug, Ducksch has generated a tackling grade of 70.0 but is sub-70.0 in 50-50s and aerial duels on a total of 168 events.

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