Talk about a bolt from the blue…
The pun is an easy one to make but really this came out of absolutely nowhere.
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For what feels like forever it has been widely assumed that Timo Werner would move to Liverpool, or at the very least Bayern Munich.
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But now he is on his way to Stamford Bridge and it sounds as if Chelsea aren’t done either, with a move for Ben Chilwell expected too.
Today however Werner is the talk of the town and rightly so. Let’s start with the goals, 26 goals of them this season in the Bundesliga, which is bettered only by Robert Lewandowski and Ciro Immobile across Europe’s top five leagues. Plus consider that Immobile has ten penalties to his name.
Then there’s the pace. A LOT of pace. With or without the ball at his feet Werner is one of the quickest forwards in Europe. Chelsea have some of that in Callum Hudson-Odoi and Christian Pulisic but Liverpool have shown that more pace is never a bad thing.
But Werner is so much more than that; over the last season or two he has really worked on other facets of his game. He’s improved his ability when coming deep and linking the play with the rest of his team-mates. The maturity he has shown in understanding the weak areas of his game is hugely impressive, and bodes well for a player who is still just 24 years of age. Working under Julian Nagelsmann helps as well.
How does he fit in? Time up for Tammy?
It’s impossible not to talk about Tammy Abraham here. The youngster is the club’s top scorer this season with 13 goals in the Premier League, going some way to justifying Frank Lampard’s faith in him after a loan spell at Aston Villa last season.
However it has not been all plain sailing for Abraham. He has suffered with injury and has scored just four goals across his last 16 matches in all competitions. Lampard has been vocal about wanting to ease the burden on his young forward, which is why the club awarded a new contract to Olivier Giroud.
If Lampard continues with his 4-3-3 it would appear as if Werner comes straight in to challenge, and likely replace, Abraham. However, Werner could offer an option out wide on the left but then again, that is where Hudson-Odoi is currently playing. Then there is also Mason Mount, Pulisic and fellow new arrival Hakim Ziyech to fit in.
Hakim Ziyech - Ajax Amsterdam
Image credit: Getty Images
One potential option that Lampard might be considering is moving back to something akin to a 3-4-3 formation. He has toyed with this idea, or something similar to it, at times throughout the season, but hasn’t stuck with it. It is a system that really gets the best out of wing-backs Reece James and Marcos Alonso (or Chilwell?) and it thrives when you have your wide forwards coming to support the lone striker. Alternatively a 3-4-1-2 might work with Ziyech in behind Werner and Abraham. In fact the arbitrary formation you assign on paper may not matter because Lampard would ask similar things of his front three in either set-up.
Playing Werner and Ziyech in support of Abraham should theoretically give Chelsea balance in attack whilst having the extra centre-back will offset the lost third midfielder. Given Chelsea’s relative porousness at the back this season that extra defender could be critical. Of course the flipside is that you have to fit Jorginho, Mateo Kovacic, N’Golo Kante, Ross Barkley and Ruben Loftus-Cheek into two positions, assuming you play Mount further forward.
The other potential lingering issue here is that Abraham and the club are currently in contract negotiations. Abraham appeared to deny those reports a couple of months ago but more recent stories suggest that talks are happening and a resolution is getting closer.
If that gets done, as you would expect it to, it is a clear show of confidence from Chelsea in their young forward. It is exactly what you would expect given the new approach to youth under Lampard, it’s hardly likely that would be canned after just one season.
It makes sense therefore that Lampard would want another high-level forward at the club given the performances of Michy Batshuayi and the age of Giroud. It also makes Werner a logical choice given his ability to play wide as well as slightly deeper if needed. Plus he’s shown with Yussuf Poulsen that he is more than capable of playing in a two.
Of course, that also probably means that Chelsea are likely out of the race to sign Jadon Sancho this summer. Sancho supported the Blues as a boy and if Lampard’s men could achieve Champions League qualification they were thought to be players for his signature.
However with Werner and Ziyech already confirmed, and Chilwell likely, it is hard to see how Chelsea would be able to financially justify splashing out Sancho as well. It’s more than likely that Manchester United move for Sancho or could Liverpool possibly get involved having missed out on Werner?
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Chelsea fans shouldn’t be too upset however as Werner allows them to kill two birds with one stone. They get a player who is excellent both out wide or in the middle which means he can either relieve Abraham or play alongside him, Sancho would only be able to do the latter.
It’s hard to find a fault with Werner, as with so many players you’d want his weaker foot to be a bit stronger but he is close to the complete package. He’s added more alongside his pace and finishing to make him more of a complete player. Sure he’s never going to be the greatest in the air but he doesn’t really need to be. Either he will play with Abraham or if he leads the line Chelsea will look to play more balls over the top of the defence (good news for Jorginho).
However one potential issue might be his tendency to score goals in patches. Take this season, Werner had seven in his first six games then one in his next seven. Then a positively purple patch with 17 goals in 13 matches before five without a goal. It’s not necessarily a disaster but it’s worryingly a bit similar to Abraham. If Ziyech and the other attackers can cover these periods, as has often happened at RB Leipzig, then this should be no problem.
Image credit: Getty Images
The only other potential problem that springs to mind is whether it makes Chelsea a bit too predictable. Abraham likes to play on the shoulders of the defenders as well and before the Premier League’s suspension teams had tried to nullify Chelsea by dropping deeper, thus nullifying their high press and turning it against the Blues when they countered. You’d think Werner might push opposing defences even deeper.
But Werner isn’t the signing to fix that problem, that’s what Ziyech is there for, it’s his job to pick holes in opposition defences with his precision passing.
To get Werner for the price that is reported, £47.5 million, at his age, in today’s market, represents great value for Chelsea. They know they are realistically at least a season or two away from being able to challenge Liverpool but they are making intelligent signings to build a team that Lampard can develop over the next few years in conjunction with academy players.
Throw in a left-back, be it Chillwell or Nicolas Tagliafico, and another central defender, and Lampard should have all the pieces he needs…
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