Chelsea managed to sign Timo Werner from right under the nose of Liverpool by triggering his release clause back in the June of 2020. Werner was making headlines week after week for his performances at RB Leipzig where he scored 95 goals in 159 games playing for the Bundesliga outfit. Essentially, every top team in Europe was interested in signing the German, and when Chelsea did, it seemed like a bargain. However, nearly two seasons later, Werner has hardly been the player many imagined him to be for the Blues.
On Saturday though, the forward showed glimpses of his former self when he scored a brace, hit the post thrice and forced mistakes from the Southampton back line on multiple occasions. Chelsea had a fantastic game overall but Werner impressed the most on the afternoon. While Saints are one of Werner’s favorite teams to play against, something seemed different about the 26-year-old at the St. Mary’s Stadium this time around. He was exuding confidence in every play he was involved in, his body language was different and despite hitting the frame of the goal an astonishing—and somewhat unbelievable—three times in one match, he did not put his head down in frustration once. The footballing gods rewarded him with a pair of goals for his efforts.
The word that sums up Werner’s Chelsea career up to this point is unlucky. It has always been a game of inches for the German, be it offside or off the mark. Fine margins have shattered his confidence during his time with the Blues, so much so that his situation replicates that of Alvaro Morata’s in a sense. He gained some momentum at the start before both his form and confidence took a tumble. There has been talk of multiple attackers possibly leaving in the summer and Werner’s name has come up a few times but Chelsea would be making a mistake offloading the speedster at the end of this season because he might be finally getting back to his best. Making this statement off the back of one game against a team like Southampton would be a risky and rather poor take, but a deeper look into his stats from this season suggest that it might be true.
At the end of last season, fans still backed Werner to do well at the club. Unfortunately, he has seen very little playing time this season and fans have become increasingly impatient with the former Leipzig talisman. Many have even called for him to be sold this summer, which doesn’t seem like the right call when analyzing the numbers.
Werner has managed to maintain a non-penalty expected goal per shot (npxG/shot) of 0.19 this season. This is up from his 0.15 mark during the 2020/21 season. For context, in his best season at RB Leipzig, he had an npxG/shot tally of 0.17. As the name suggests, it is the statistical likelihood of a non-penalty shot ending up in the back of the net. Of course, the standard of goalkeepers in the Premier League is higher than those in the Bundesliga for the most part, even then, it’s not an over-exaggeration to state his underlying numbers are back up to old standards.
Werner’s confidence had taken such a huge hit that he has been afraid to take shots in recent months. Many will remember that in the defeat against West Brom last season, Werner had a clear-cut chance to score but instead chose to play a late pass to Mason Mount, who had to stretch to full length to get a foot on and score. That wasn’t the case on Saturday though. Werner took shots from different areas of the box nearly every time he got a clean look on goal. He ended the game with eight shots, out of which four were on target and three hit the frame of the goal. Werner is averaging 3.32 shots per 90 minutes, as compared to 3.77 in his last season in the Bundesliga. If Werner’s numbers are back up though, why is he still struggling at Chelsea?
Simply put, Werner still needs to find a way to be more efficient and clinical in front of goal. His shots on target per 90 tally is still at 1.01 this season, compared to 1.90 in the German top flight. Another key statistic is the difference between his xG tally and actual goals scored at both Leipzig and with the Blues. He over-performed his xG by a staggering 5.6 goals with Leipzig. This could come down to his form, his team’s form or even Julian Nagelsmann ability to make some of his players over-perform.
Thomas Tuchel has shown that he is also capable of drastically improving some of his players, the latest example being the second most expensive signing in the history of the club, Kai Havertz. Even though he has underperformed his xG by 3.2 goals throughout this campaign, his non-penalty xG per shot indicates that Chelsea has been involving Werner in the game more effectively. Werner has been finding himself in better positions to score, which is always a positive aspect in a strikers’ game.
Historically, Werner has been a very streaky player throughout his career. He went on a goal streak in the 2020/21 season before that infamous Newcastle game where he missed a few good opportunities and his form declined afterward. He had a similar patch of some great games at the start of this season, but an injury in the Champions League game against Malmo meant that he was back to square one. Werner needs to score in a few games to get his confidence back up, and his tendency to be a streaky goalscorer will do the rest. Seeing as Arsenal and Spurs are beginning to close the gap in the top four race and Chelsea still competing for two trophies, the Blues will need goals. It would be a great time for Werner to get back to his best.
Do you think there’s a way back for Werner at Chelsea? Let us know your thoughts in the comments or on Twitter!