Since his arrival at Chelsea for around €50 million last summer, Timo Werner has been an enigmatic figure. He started his career at Stamford Bridge well, scoring a few goals and forming strong partnerships with the wingers that played alongside him.
For the past few months, though, things have been very different. Werner’s struggles have been discussed by pundits and social media trolls alike, with some labelling the German speedster a flop and scapegoating him for the team’s poor form. Admittedly, the goal numbers have been disappointing and at times Werner has looked completely out of his depth. However, he has recently put together a string of impressive performances under Thomas Tuchel’s stewardship, culminating in a great all-around individual effort during the 2-1 victory over Sheffield United on Sunday.
Despite the fact that I have railed both privately and publicly against Timo Werner playing on the wing for Chelsea, he is starting to look more comfortable in that position. He is no longer staying on the fringes of the pitch as a true left winger, isolated from his teammates while trying to dribble past defenders with very little support. Instead, he has been playing off the shoulder of the No. 9 — Olivier Giroud against the Blades — and running in behind the defense to either receive a through ball or at least attract the defense’s attention.
It is unsurprising that Werner would thrive in this role, as he was utilized similarly during his time at RB Leipzig. He would set up on the left behind Danish hitman Yussuf Poulsen while Emil Forsberg did the same on the right. Those three formed a dangerous attacking triumvirate that dominated the Bundesliga during Leipzig’s 2019/20 title challenge in which Werner scored 28 goals. If Tuchel can employ similar tactics with any of Chelsea’s plethora of attacking talent, Werner has a chance to recapture his old form and start scoring more consistently.
One area of Werner’s game that many did not account for before he arrived is his ability to pick out teammates with a key pass. He already has five Premier League assists, including a fantastic cut back to Mason Mount for Chelsea’s first goal against Sheffield. He created a number of other chances as well, including drawing the penalty that Jorginho converted so coolly. This new penchant for passing and playmaking might be a result of Werner’s low confidence in front of goal, but certainly no supporters are complaining.
Of course, there is still much room for improvement if Werner is going to ultimately prove himself worthy of such a large price tag. However, in the early days of the Tuchel era, he has played well and been an important reason for the team’s rehabilitated form. He is only missing the goals. Until they start to come — and when they do, they will come in bunches — Werner must keep contributing in other ways, such as making space-clearing runs behind the defense or assisting his teammates. If he can, there is no reason why Chelsea will not be a serious contender for next season’s Champions League.