Chelsea Schrodinger’s Forward: The curious case of Timo Werner

It is Germany versus North Macedonia when the ball is crossed to Chelsea’s Timo Werner. He is right in front of goal and it is about as much of a tap in as could be. All he has to do is cushion the ball a bit and redirect it on target to put Germany ahead in the 79th minute. He doesn’t do that though. He does what he’s done a lot at Chelsea this season; he overthinks and whiffs it. For some reason he opts to hit it with his left foot but he hooks it so terribly that the ball goes wide. Germany didn’t lose 2-1 to North Macedonia because of Werner’s miss. But they certainly didn’t win despite it either.

And yet he has more goal contributions than anyone else at Chelsea. 10 goals and 10 assists betters goal scoring on all but Tammy Abraham and Olivier Giroud. No one betters his 10 assists. If framed solely through the inside forward position he has played almost all season, 10 and 10 is a fantastic return. In every match, it is hard to argue against Werner being one of the hardest working players on the pitch. Only Mason Mount can really claim to have more get up and go.

Timo Werner exists in a strange place since joining Chelsea. The numbers and effort are there but so too is the utter lack of confidence or edge. It is equally possible to say Werner is out of form, that he has had a bad season, that he has flopped as it is to say he’s undroppable, that he’s done well in a new league, that there is more to come on the back of an already good season. Werner is curiously both at the same time.

The most common comparison made about Werner is that he is like Fernando Torres. Neither lacked for effort and both were inside their own head far too much when the ball fell to them in front of goal. Yet Werner has stats that can back up more to come whereas Torres never really did (outside the Europa League anyways). Werner is also much younger, in his first foreign league, and doesn’t have the injury history holding him back like Torres did. By all accounts, if this is rock bottom for Werner, he has a lot of climbing up to come that Torres didn’t.

That being said, a team like Chelsea can’t afford any player missing chances like the one Werner did against North Macedonia. Yes he did that for the national team but that is hardly the only place he’s done so this season. What may be even worse is the heavy touch that follows great passes where he loses the ball before even creating a shot.

Joachim Low and Thomas Tuchel even appear to have come down on different sides about Werner this season. The national team manager seems to have lost faith in him, only playing him as a late sub this break. His performance against North Macedonia likely means that will remain the reality this summer for the Euros. Tuchel, meanwhile, has afforded Werner tons of opportunities since arriving at Chelsea. Though they haven’t always been repaid in goals or assists, Werner has still managed to put in more good performances than bad under the new boss.

A lot of it might come down to who can take his spot. At Chelsea, Christian Pulisic is the most direct competition and he’s been too out of form or injured to compete with Werner. With Germany, that competition seems to be mostly Leroy Sane and Werner has no chance against the German winger if he isn’t in the form he was with Leipzig last year.

That’s just where Werner is at the moment. He’s both been good enough and bad at the same time. How the season ends for him will be crucial in how he continues on from this strange time in his life.