Timo Werner struggled once again, this time coming off the bench in Chelsea’s game against Fulham. However, he’s earned our patience.
There is a lot to unpack from Chelsea’s 1-0 victory over Fulham, and while I’ll leave the bulk of the lessons learnt to my colleague, there one significant point that has to be stressed: it is time to lay off Timo Werner.
The German striker had a perfect chance late on to snap his drought in front of goal against Fulham. In a breakaway reminiscent of the goals he scored for RB Leipzig, the 24-year-old was clear of the defenders, bearing down on goal. Opening his body to shoot past the oncoming keeper, everything about the move screamed goal. In trying to curl the ball around keeper towards the far post Werner skinned it wide. The miss issued a cavalcade of ‘Werner this’ and ‘Werner that’ on Twitter. I even got into a heated debate with a friend and passionate Blues fan about how Werner was not abysmal, and he was not a waste of money.
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The two of us went back and forth about how many world class strikers Chelsea has had versus how many have actually played well in SW6. Fernando Torres and Andre Shevchenko were both world class, but joined the Blues for big fees straight after suffering massive injuries. Nicolas Anelka, Hernan Crespo and Samuel Eto’o all joined when past their prime. Werner joins Diego Costa and Alvaro Morata as the only strikers that have joined the Blues as they directly enter—or are in—their prime. Costa was a beast, but fell out with Conte; Morata was a raging success until he forced himself back from injury early, massively impacting his game. Werner is not in that same boat and when analysing the German striker, it is important to consider there are two sides to his situation.
The first is that Werner should be scoring more and he’s missed a number of glaring opportunities is obvious. He was brought in to score goals and he hasn’t so there is reason to be frustrated. However, if you actually watch Werner throughout the game, you cannot be disappointed in his overall performances or his work rate. Some miscued passes aside, he is tireless up and down the pitch and you cannot find fault in that.
While Werner may not be scoring, he is still getting into those areas and that is key. If it gets to a point where Werner isn’t reading the defence’s movements, anticipating the pass or fails to be in the right place at the right time, then serious questions should be asked. Right now, it is just a crisis of confidence that is causing him to overthink, tense up and miss. A striker of his ability will not continue to miss these opportunities, he’s just too good.
Secondly, Chelsea fans take after Roman Abramovich and love to be ruthless in their pursuit of success. It is a major factor as to why this club has been one of the most successful in football over the past 15 years.
However, that ruthlessness has also meant that the process has been rushed; both in terms of managers and players. Carlo Ancelotti built one of the most dominant Chelsea teams ever to grace Stamford Bridge, but a few stumbles and he was out the door. Resurrecting then guiding the team to a Champions League title couldn’t keep Roberto Di Matteo in charge and Antonio Conte changed how the Premier League was played, stormed away with the title, then was gone. The case isn’t quite the same for Jose Mourinho, but the point is evident that incredibly successful and ‘Hall of Fame’ worthy managers have all stood in the dugout at Stamford Bridge. In the pursuit of more trophies and inordinately high standards though, they have all been shown the door.
The same can be said of players that were undoubtedly talented but never given time. There is this Belgian midfielder named Kevin De Bruyne who links up incredibly well with a striker currently tearing up Serie A, Romelu Lukaku. Neither of them were granted the patience to settle into the Chelsea team, similar to the situation with an Egyptian winger by the name of Mohamed Salah. The same for a then 23-year-old Arjen Robben or a 22-year-old Nathan Ake. None of these players, outside of Robben, were outstanding in their first year or so at Chelsea, but have all developed into world class talents. Hindsight is 20/20 and these are glaring mistakes, but it speaks to the inherent relentless nature of Chelsea. Short-term success in lieu of patient dominance.
Bringing this back to Werner, he is the only one of the aforementioned players that has joined Chelsea right at the start of their prime. Chelsea did not give the then-prospects of De Bruyne, Lukaku, Robben, Salah, Ake and more the chance to get to their prime in Chelsea blue; to deny Werner the patience to reach in his peak would be for the Blues to cut off their nose in-spite of their face. Werner is a proven goal scorer and he just needs time to properly adjust to England and the Premier League. It is not an easy switch to make, and the Premier League is the most taxing league in the world.
Perhaps you know of one striker Chelsea did give time to settle in and adjust? Didier Drogba. In the Premier League, just 10 goals in his first season, 12 in his second, then 20 goals with four assists in his third. He joined in 2004, but you have to wait until 2009/10 for Drogba to be the best striker in the game with 29 goals and 10 assists in 32 appearances.
Werner deserves a full season, an entire pre-season and then a full second season before he can be fairly judged. Judge him on his time at Chelsea after he has actually played enough to be assessed, don’t critique him on his past exploits in a different league for another team who played a contrasting style. To do anything less would just repeat the monumental errors the Blues have made with world class talents now perfecting their trade elsewhere.
History repeats itself and if the Blues continue on their current trajectory they are with Werner, it is borne to repeat itself again, robbing Stamford Bridge of another world class talent.