Chelsea: Knee-jerk reaction critics proven wrong as new stars lead wins

Chelsea’s newcomers are proving the knee-jerk critics of those signings totally wrong as they helped the Blues cruise into the FA Cup final. A well-suited combination of Timo Werner and the emerging star Hakim Ziyech are trashing former critics’ negativity with performance not talk. The pair actually scored twice on two beautiful plays, one, unfortunately, having been called back due to offside. But the combination repeated its brilliance with a picture-perfect feed by Werner to a perfectly well-positioned Ziyech to crash Manchester City out of the FA Cup competition.

The boo-birds have been out for much of the season on Werner as he hasn’t scored the goals immediately expected of him since arriving from Leipzig. Having cautioned against rash judgments on Werner and other new players, this writer has made it clear that the transition for the new players was an extremely difficult one for a number of reasons. These included the entirely new surroundings and team and the existence of the unprecedented world health situation due to Covid-19. None of that should have been very difficult to understand and appreciate. Yet it was.

Probably the worst target of the naysayers has been Timo Werner. While Werner has had difficulties finishing (called due to a “goal line ghost” here), he nevertheless has had a tremendously positive impact on the Blues’ success, the lack of more prolific goalscoring notwithstanding. While his goal tally has notched somewhat fewer than anticipated, his play overall has not. He has 22 goals involvements in all competitions thus far and he only now is beginning to hit his stride. Werner has always been a multi-faceted player who both scores and dishes out assists copiously. He’s doing the same with Chelsea. And now, it’s emerging more often.

It was previously pointed out that earlier in the season, Werner’s teammates had little clue either of how to utilize his most amazing asset, his pace, or were just providing the service he requires. He received little to none. That has begun to change now under Tuchel, or maybe it was just a natural progression as the other Blues players fully realized just how dynamic and devastating a weapon that pace really is. Evidently, they now “get it” and Chelsea is being rewarded with brilliant, Man-of-the-Match level performances now consistently. Werner is emerging as a force, and there is lots more on the way, including barrels full of goals. Any and all foolishness suggesting shipping him out in the summer should be rubbished immediately. It’s nonsensical. The best is yet to come for sure.

Another target of the “knee-jerk” reactors has been Ziyech, the Moroccan Magician. Again, as with his German compatriot Kai Havertz (who has been written about clearly and demonstrably in this space as another future star who just needs patience), Werner has been castigated in the media by the “lose-a-game panic” crowd for a somewhat slow beginning to his Chelsea career mainly due to injury initially and acclimation for a while, as well, to the speed and ferocity maybe of the Premier League game. Again, it was cautioned that the talent would show once the initial hurdles, again compounded in a way almost unimaginable by the worldwide pandemic were overcome or at least acclimatized to. They have been.

Ziyech is emerging as a key goal-scorer in a somewhat interesting role reversal of late with Werner. It’s been Werner providing more of the fantastic pinpoint passes and Ziyech starting to deliver the brilliant finishing. In fact, each has been and will continue to be proficient in both aspects of the goal-scoring process. That it is clear and the metamorphosis has already begun for these two newcomers and with lots of help from their mates is helping propel Chelsea into major Cup finals and semi-finals. And, hopefully, ultimately to Cup wins. This season.

One can also include the aforementioned Havertz in this equation as a previous article pointed out quite clearly and unequivocally. In addition to all the other acclimatization challenges, the young star was also afflicted with Covid-19. It certainly seems that the virus without any doubt whatsoever directly and dramatically impacted his fitness and stamina. Yet, the critics were loud and ready to ship him out as soon as possible, citing his high transfer fee as further fodder for their arguments.

And similar comments can be said for Christian Pulisic, as well. His only issue has been injuries. Period. When he is healthy and on the pitch, he is a force in the Premier League and in any other competition. Simply recall his play after the restart last season when he was healthy and helped lead Chelsea to an unexpected top-four finish. Freezing him out of the first team as noted previously would also be a prescription for disaster.

A word of caution to Chelsea is this. The failed examples of the untimely and grossly premature transfers of brilliant young talents like Kevin De Bruyne, Romelu Lukaku, and Mohamed Salah (and possibly an upcoming mistake with Fikayo Tomori) were gross miscalculations that should be keen and poignant negative learning experiences for the Blues. They failed to have faith in their own process and mistrusted their own scouts and/or the managers who brought in those talents in the first place. The subsequent consequences were disastrous. And, especially now, the club should be increasingly sensitive to the imperative in this time of global crisis, to allow new players to settle, and become fully accustomed to all that is new and challenging for them.

At this current time, it is even more important than ever before, perhaps to exercise, patience, prudence, discretion, foresight, and understanding before selling them haphazardly, and bemoaning that fact for a decade or so. Hopefully, those lessons have been learned.