When Chelsea paid €50m for a player who had netted 28 times in 34 Bundesliga appearances last season, most assumed the Blues had found their next great goalscorer. The club itself seemingly saw Timo Werner as the striker they would build around for years to come.
It has since become apparent the 25-year-old won’t be this figure. Chelsea are widely expected to move for another centre forward this summer, with both Sergio Aguero and Erling Haaland linked, as they seek to address a deficiency in their squad Werner was meant to.
This doesn’t necessarily mean Werner has been a flop though, nor does it mean he doesn’t have a future at Chelsea as one of their most important players. He more than proved his worth in the FA Cup semi final win over Manchester City on Saturday, conducting the electricity that ultimately energised the Blues.
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Thomas Tuchel was appointed partly on the notion he would get more out of Chelsea’s two big German investments, of which Werner is one alongside Kai Havertz. The former Borussia Dortmund and Paris Saint-Germain boss has already shown he has a better grasp of Werner’s qualities than Frank Lampard ever did.
That was on display in the victory over City at Wembley, with Chelsea’s wide man instructed to overload the Premier League table-toppers in the wide areas. Tuchel recognised the space City tend to leave in behind their full backs and so Ben Chilwell, Werner and Hakim Ziyech were all quick to expose this as often as possible.
Hakim Ziyech (l.) klatscht sich mit Timo Werner ab
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Manchester City were given fair warning of Tuchel’s ploy because it very nearly carved open a goal in the first half, with Werner breaking in behind before squaring for Ziyech to finish. The same move produced the winner in the second half as City failed to find a way to account for the former RB Leipzig forward’s pace.
There was a purpose to Werner’s selection on the defensive side of the ball too. Even as City dominated possession and territory in the second half, it never felt like they were suffocating their opponents. This was due to the threat of Werner running in behind with every ball played over the top or into the channels.
Werner’s role was similar to the one performed by Kylian Mbappe in the Champions League quarter final second leg between PSG and Bayern Munich earlier in the week. City found themselves caught in the same trap that saw Hansi Flick’s struggle to convert possession into goals.
Thomas Tuchel (l.) und Timo Werner
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Tuchel’s Chelsea are still a work-in-progress, but the German is finding answers to questions. One of those questions concerned Werner’s place and purpose in his squad. While the 25-year-old might not be a man for every occasion, his worth is clear when the assignment is right, as it was against Manchester City’s high line on Saturday evening.
If Tuchel’s formula is to couple a well-drilled, well-organised defensive unit with a dynamic and pacy frontline, Werner could be the player who facilitates more than anyone else. He allows Chelsea to function at the back while providing a threat as an attacking outlet. Partner him with someone like Haaland, or even Aguero, and the effect could be devastating.
Chelsea aren’t known for patience when it comes to big money attacking investments. They won’t hang around for a striker to come good - just ask Alvaro Morata. Werner will need to demonstrate a sharper edge of his own to truly justify the €50m paid for him last summer, but he has managed to find a role for himself at Stamford Bridge. It’s not his fault so many misunderstood what sort of player he was to begin with.
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