Chelsea made a massive splash in the transfer market in the summer of 2020, bringing in acknowledged talents to upgrade a changing squad to virtually universal acclaim. Now, as fans and observers are wont to do, the worm has turned and criticism is reigning and running wild of the more than 200 million pounds spent. Even in this space, that worry, angst, and loss of confidence has sneaked into some comments from time to time. As with all fans, our thoughts, hopes, and aspirations seem to rise and fall based on the last 90 plus minutes of football action by Chelsea.
Now, as the pendulum has swung toward the bottom of its course, observers have turned on the acquisitions who may not be achieving as was hoped, after the summer transfer window slammed shut with several key pieces having been added. Yet, this column is backing this Chelsea squad, regardless of the speed bump in the road that has rattled the suspension of the vehicle. Rather than thinking the Ferrari or Lamborghini needs to be completely overhauled, traded in, or sold, it’s important to take stock of the excellence of the vehicle, a knowledge that there will always be bumps in the road, but that quality in automobiles and in football players will always win out.
The object of much of this negativity has been heaped upon the 21-year-old German wonder, Kai Havertz. Havertz is a tremendous talent but hasn’t seemed to catch fire, consistently, since being struck with the devastating coronavirus. It has been written before that the contraction of that virus is a major possible factor in all of the young German phenom’s on-pitch troubles. Among other just basic environmental factors like settling into a new home, etc., no need to rehash all those reasons why the transition to the Premier League has been a challenge.
But, again, no one should ever discount the physical impact of the coronavirus on Havertz’s health, never mind his fitness to excel in the rigors of the Premier League. He now clearly seems to lack the pace and stamina of his pre-coronavirus performances. One can only assume that this terrible disease can impact the overall health and certainly fitness of even the young and previously football fit. If he appears not to have those previously witnessed aspects of his game, how can observers and pundits so easily dismiss the impact of this disease on this young football phenom?
The answer should be obvious and really is simple: you can’t. You can’t in any way dismiss this critical factor. If you are not totally well, if you are still recovering from coronavirus, and who knows how long recovery from this awful affliction takes for each and every individual, how can you be even close to being football fit? Again, you can’t be. It’s presumptuous and worse to so assume. Never mind all the other cultural factors that, added to the devastating physical impact of the coronavirus, have impacted this young man in any number of major aspects of his daily life. To have moved across a continent, with monstrous expectations and then to be ill, very ill, away from home, and then to try to cope with the many pressures of his football performance, is a burden that is almost inconceivable to bear.
Kai Havertz will excel. In this space, he’s getting 110% percent support to not just be a success, but a spectacular success, whenever his physical health allows him to be. Because it is his physical health due to the coronavirus that has almost certainly been (how about 99 percent?) responsible for his struggles on the pitch and the cause of any changes that have impacted his game. Count on this, he will be tremendous. He will emerge maybe in early 2021, or maybe not even until the 2021/22 season. But expect it. Support the young man. And wait until, when he’s finally healthy and fit, he explodes onto the scene and is a dominant factor in English football for Chelsea.
Second, Timo Werner. Werner has nine goals and six assists in 27 appearances in all competitions for Chelsea. Those statistics may not be what was hoped by the Chelsea faithful, but take a closer look at those statistics and think about them. He has four goals and five assists in 19 Premier League games. These are not earth-shattering statistics for the young German scorer in light of his 34 goals last season for RB Leipzig. That’s fair. What wasn’t fair, were the monstrous expectations heaped upon Werner by Chelsea fandom that was probably wholly unrealistic for the young German, who like Havertz, had all of the myriad lifestyle and cultural adjustments to make in his new life, home, city, and country. And like Havertz, he also had in his acculturation into the Premier League, a league that dwarfs probably any other in its physicality and intensity.
But still, keep in mind, Werner has scored nine goals already in half of a season, a decent haul, and has been disparaged for that tally. Just doubling that total would place him at 18, only six behind last season’s top scorer Tammy Abraham who had 24 in all competitions. 18 goals would be looked upon as decent indeed for most players. But so much more has been expected from Werner, in what may in fact have been unfair and totally unrealistic expectations. But before getting to that point, why assume just a continuation of his current form from Werner for the rest of the season? If he only did that and did return 18 goals, it should be regarded as a good season. Anyone who scores 18 goals should be looked upon as a solid contribution to his side. Period.
The dilemma for Werner, however, is that he scored goals in buckets in the far less challenging and physically demanding Bundesliga. He was a goal-machine second only to the player who has been termed as “otherworldly”, Robert Lewandowski of Bayern Munich. So it was unrealistic that he would step onto Premier League pitches and just score in torrents as he had for Leipzig. Yet, at first, it looked quite like he might do just that. But he has fallen into a bit of a slump. And that may very well be attributed to his being played primarily on the left-wing, which is not where he in the past had been such a prolific goal-scorer in Germany. That position was a center-forward.
Max Bergman, a football analyst is quoted this way about this issue:
"“At Chelsea Timo Werner has been primarily used as a winger contrary to his striker position at RB Leipzig. But the problem is not only Werner’s position but also his role at Chelsea as this thread attempts to unveil.”"
Bergman writes that Werner thrived at Leipzig by occupying a central role in the space between the defense and midfield.
Bergman may be right, but it certainly seems clear that Werner needs to be in the middle of the pitch. A major problem outlined before is that the service from the midfield is virtually non-existent. That’s the primary issue in his lack of good scoring chances. Not that he hasn’t had his share of howlers already and flubbed a few easy scoring opportunities. That’s what a dip in form and subsequently confidence can do to a player, especially one on whom such monstrous expectations had been placed.
Mark Twain said “if you don’t like the weather in New England now, just wait a few minutes”. So, just wait a while, and it will be the same for Werner and Havertz. That minute or number of games, whatever it may be will pass. Werner like Havertz will at some point explode onto the scene and make the critical commentators backtrack as fast as a Maserati in reverse gear on a racetrack. As was written previously about manager Frank Lampard, the proposition is that Chelsea Nation should support Lampard and afford him the support, the time, and the opportunity to meld this squad into the one he hoped it would become from the outset.
The same has to be said for Havertz and Werner as well as Lampard. That support rests here, even if nowhere else. The gaffer and his two highly prized acquisitions from Germany will all make good. Really good. Hopefully great. When? That’s a question that can’t be answered. As has been noted in this space previously, there’s no crystal ball here. But the breakout is coming. The health and fitness and acclimation period will all hopefully be overcome early in 2021. Or maybe they won’t be this season. No one knows.
“Rome wasn’t built in a day” and neither will a revised Chelsea Premier League winning side. But the words to keep front and center are these: patience, confidence in the talent of the two great players (and their young terrific manager), and expectations. This Blues’ squad when fully healthy and fit will erupt like a volcano. It’s only a question of how soon. And when it does, it’s going to be a sight to behold. Count this writer as totally on board with all three: Havertz, Werner, and manager Lampard. All-in. All the time. All the way.