Tactics and Transfers: In defence of Chelsea’s Timo Werner

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Tactics and Transfers: In defence of Chelsea’s Timo Werner

Chelsea has struggled when it comes to adding strikers through the transfer market under Roman Abramovich. Mateja Kezman, Hernan Crespo, Andriy Shevchenko, Fernando Torres and Alvaro Morata never reached the heights expected of them—Timo Werner should not be added to that list. The young German hasn’t endured the sort of season that he did last year in Germany during his time in the Premier League. That said, it’s not entirely unexpected or unreasonable to suggest that this would have been the most difficult and peculiar year in which to adapt to playing in a new league.

The repercussions of Coronavirus and the travel bans, isolation and general level of anxiety that it caused for people throughout the world were incredible mental hurdles for players to deal with.

That is probably more so for young players from foreign countries who were not able to have some of the comforts of European travel that they normally would. They couldn’t take a 90-minute flight home on off days, nor could their families come to visit them and then when they had days off, they had to spend them alone at home exercising in front of a computer monitor. Not exactly what they signed up for.

Werner is not like Chelsea strikers of old, his mentality is what sets him apart.

That’s why it doesn’t exactly shock me that Werner had the biggest dip in form of his career. Before coming to Chelsea at only 24 years old, Werner had already scored 109 goals. He was used to scoring and a certain level of success. It says something about his mentality then that he not only chose to leave RB Leipzig and the Bundesliga to come to the Premier League, but that he even came over early to start training with the side before the end of the season in Germany.

Being a striker, he is, of course, going to be something of a confidence player. The fact that, in the face of his scoring draught and the effects of the Coronavirus, he has managed to find ways to immeasurably and inarguably contribute to the team, is incredibly important.

No, he hasn’t scored 20 goals and it will be pretty much impossible for him to do so this season. That said, he has 14 assists. He has 26 goal involvements and is by far the leader in that statistic on the team. I have long argued that you should not count goals or assists simply goal involvements. It would encourage more team play and less selfishness, and so long as the team scores, it doesn’t matter who puts it in the net.

Werner has shown the sort of character, strength and mental fortitude that it takes for an individual to be a proper Chelsea player. The club, the support and the team are better off for—and I would even say lucky—to have him. Where other Chelsea strikers have had less reason to be down in terms of their confidence and mentality, they have fallen off the wagon in ways that Werner never would. Remember Morata? He didn’t like the weather and thought the league was rough; he fell apart in a period of weeks. Werner has been a class act and a good professional in ways that make Morata’s period at the club look even worse by comparison.

The fact that even when he hasn’t been scoring, he never stops working is nothing short of remarkable. He stretches the defence, presses, creates assists and always makes the right decision. Where players struggling for goals often make poor decisions to try and break their scoring ducks, Werner always does the right thing and plays the ball to the player in the best position. It’s remarkable and suggests so much about not only his football brain, but his footballing character, that he has become an undroppable and obvious contributor to the side. When things have gone poorly for other strikers, they immediately stopped playing. When Morata or Kezman’s form dipped, Chelsea was immediately reduced to 10-men. They didn’t even seem interested in helping the team if it couldn’t be about them as the main men. Werner doesn’t struggle with that.

If this is what Werner is like at his worst then he can stay at Chelsea for as long as he wants. He has proven to be a good man, a good teammate, a good player and a damn fine professional. The club and his teammates should be proud that he wears the badge and he has proven to be a proper Chelsea player in all the fighting spirit ways that Chelsea supporters adore. He will come good because his character demands it, but also because he doesn’t actually have far to go. He’s already exactly the sort of player who makes it at Stamford Bridge.

Theoretically, Coronavirus may even have created a sense of delayed gratification by creating such a negative atmosphere around sports for the entire world. With players having to adjust to so much besides simply a new league and under unprecedented circumstances, there is a very good chance that they hit the ground running starting next year when fans are back. British football will be what it was supposed to be when they signed up for it.

Werner doesn’t need to come good in those circumstances. He already has been, but next season, he is going to improve even more. That is something that all Chelsea supporters should be happy to know.

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