Timo Werner’s struggles in a blue shirt are hardly new to Chelsea, who have seen high-profile strikers turn out to be letdowns operating at the point of attack for them over the years. Fernando Torres, Alvaro Morata, Radamel Falcao and Gonzalo Higuain all joined the Stamford Bridge side at different points in time boasting remarkable goalscoring stats only to leave with tail between legs.
It takes a special breed of forward to thrive at Chelsea and, it appears the threshold is more of a mental one than it is physical as the likes of Didier Drogba and Diego Costa were far from the most mobile attackers around but had the cerebral fortitude and confidence to bully their way through defences to find the back of the net with impressive regularity.
Werner appeared to have taken to life at Chelsea like a duck to water, scoring eight goals in his first 11 appearances for the Blues. But, following a few strikes that found the back of the net after he was adjudged to be offside, the goals dried up. The German speedster went 12 games without scoring before nudging the simplest of tap-ins against Morecambe in the FA Cup earlier this month. He started on the bench for Chelsea’s 1-0 win against Fulham on Saturday – Olivier Giroud got the nod – but would miss a sitter that would have given the Blues a much-needed cushion in the dying embers after coming on.
The opportunity was somewhat similar to the one he grabbed against Tottenham back in November but the angle was kinder and he appeared to have had more time. The former RB Leipzig man had opened up his body and struck with expert precision, only for the goal to be ruled offside. Yet he fluffed his lines against the Cottagers, shooting wide to leave Blues fans counting down the seconds in nervous infuriation.
The miss was one pointing to a man devoid of confidence and Frank Lampard was seen consoling his forward after win – a win that was way more difficult than it should have been considering the home side went down a man through a red card in the first half of the match. The manager reckons the player is probably being too hard on himself.
“He’s maybe being hard on himself,” Lampard admitted to reporters. “But any striker worth their salt, any striker that has scored the goals he has scored, will be hard on themselves.
“That is how he has got to the top. He has a desire to score goals. I was happy when he came on and got into that position because that’s where I’ve seen him score so many goals in his career. And he will score them again. Being hard on himself is not a problem. I hope he feels my support. The only way through a patch where things are not quite going for you is to train and train, to keep your attitude right, to stay positive.”
While it does appear that Werner is quickly turning out to be a flop, fans should consider the circumstances he’s had to play under. In a general sense, the world is a very different place a year on from January 2020, and having to go out to play football every week at the height of a pandemic is hardly ideal.
Werner is also playing for a relatively inexperienced head coach who has had to navigate through a number of injuries and absences that have seen him deployed out on the left perhaps more times than he would have liked. That is no excuse, though, as the 24-year-old excelled for RB Leipzig in such a position. However, he’s proven to be way more effective up front.
There’s also the fact that no other Chelsea player has scored more than Werner so far this season. Both he and Giroud are currently on nine goals, while Tammy Abraham has scored eight. If he can manage to score another nine goals before the season is over, it wouldn’t be a bad first campaign. Club legend Drogba only scored 16 in his debut term for the Blues but he did help bring in their first title in 50 years. Chelsea’s prospects of winning the league have dropped significantly with the odds no longer favoring them.
The German’s haul of nine goals in 26 outings isn’t exactly woeful. The multiple misses make it seem that way but a 0.346 goal-per-game ratio is hardly something to sneer at. Furthermore, only Drogba, Costa, Giroud, Abraham, and Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink have managed better rates as Chelsea strikers since the turn of the century.
Should his struggles continue, Werner will not be the first Premier League star to have had a torrid first season in the top flight. Luis Suarez took a season and a half to really get going in England; a number of other big names also failed to set the world alight in the early going. Of course, it’s a lot harder to turn things around at Chelsea but, perhaps it’s still a bit too early to brand Timo Werner a flop.