On Timo Werner’s Move to Chelsea

Frank Lampard finally has his man…

Feature Image by Andreas H. from Pixabay

German striker Timo Werner was among the hottest commodities in Europe after an incredible season for RB Leipzig. Several teams were after the German’s signature, but it seemed he was destined to a move to Merseyside to join his countryman Jürgen Klopp at Liverpool. Well, that was, until Chelsea swooped in. Rumors emerged a week or so ago that Chelsea had activated Werner’s release clause, and after endless speculation, the deal was made official today. Werner will be joining the Blues at the end of this season for a fee in the region of €53 million (£47.6 million).

Looking at this move from the perspective of Werner, this is probably the right decision. This might be oversimplifying it a little bit, but it appeared his decision (should leaving Leipzig had been already decided) was between three teams: Liverpool, Bayern Munich, and Chelsea. Of those three teams, Chelsea may not have been the best choice when it comes to winning trophies immediately, but it is by far the best choice in terms of his playing time and ability to advance his career. All three teams play a formation that utilizes only one striker, but both Bayern and Liverpool have established first team players already in that role. Robert Lewandowski and Roberto Firmino are immovable fixtures of their respective teams, and should Werner have gone to either Bayern or Liverpool, it is not guaranteed that he would consistently play. At this stage in his career, regular playing time is key for his improvement from a player with world-class potential to a proper world-class footballer. At Chelsea, his primary competition is Tammy Abraham, who has not fully demonstrated the passing grade in his first season in the Premier League. Werner will be able to come into Chelsea and become the main man immediately, being the centerpiece of the Blues’ attack. He also comes into a team that is very good, with several creative players, including Mason Mount and the also newly-arriving Hakim Ziyech, to provide him service. Of the teams that were in the hunt for Werner, he chose the most ideal destination for himself.

For Chelsea, this is an absolute home-run, no brainer signing. Frank Lampard arrived at the club while they were under transfer embargo, he could not add to the team in January, and he faced the still difficult task of keeping Chelsea in the Champions League picture for next season with an inexperienced squad and without Eden Hazard. As of right now, it appears that he has accomplished everything that was asked of him, and the Chelsea board rewarded him with backing and investment, and quite smart investment at that. For around £50 million, they have signed a forward with world-class potential coming off of his best season as a professional. They now have a player with genuine superstar potential to build their team around for the coming years. Make no mistake, this is a statement of intent from Chelsea, they see a void in the top four that they can fill. In signing Werner and Ziyech, they have massively improved their attack and found the goalscorer they needed. On paper, at least, this greatly improves their team and is the exact signing that they needed.

For Leipzig, it is unfortunate to lose arguably the best player in your club’s (albeit short) history, especially for what is probably below his market value. However, £50 million is a very good amount of money to work with. With the incredibly talented Red Bull scouting system, it is very hard to imagine it taking a while for Leipzig to find a competent replacement for Werner. The best candidate may be within the Red Bull system, with Salzburg striker Patson Daka having starred for the Austrian side since the departure of Erling Håland. Losing Werner and his 26 league goals is still a massive deal, especially with him now not being available when the Champions League resumes, and his departure will possibly take Leipzig out of the title picture for the immediate future. They had a real chance to win a title this season, but that window has seemingly closed, for now at least.

So, are there no possible issues I see with this move? Well, not quite. Werner is obviously very talented, but I have questions about how he will fit in Chelsea’s system. For most of his career, especially since he arrived at Leipzig from Stuttgart in 2016, he played in a two striker formation. Whether it be in Ralph Hasenhüttl’s 4-2-2-2 or Julian Nagelsmann’s 3-5-2, he has always had a strike partner next to him. The chemistry he built with Yussuf Poulsen was a large reason for his rapid success in East Germany and, combined with the success he has had playing alongside Patrik Schick this season, it shows his comfort level when he has a larger target man striker to play off of. Playing for Germany, where he usually played as a lone striker or left winger, he was not able to demonstrate the same form he showed for Leipzig. This poses an interesting question when he is brought into Chelsea’s 4-2-3-1 system. Does he play as the lone striker? Does he play on the left with Abraham as the lone striker? Does he move more centrally to play alongside Abraham, with Mount and Ziyech moving around behind the two strikers to occupy the space on the wings? Werner has definitely grown rapidly as a forward since arriving in Leipzig, and his ability to read space, move without the ball, work in the build up play, and create chances shows he has come far from being the pacy, get-in-behind striker that he was when he left Stuttgart, but I am slightly concerned about his ability to be a lone striker. Finding a way to play him and Abraham together would be very interesting, and I think it would put Werner in a more comfortable situation while also improving Abraham, but it is down to how Lampard wants to use him.

Ultimately, this is a statement signing for Chelsea. Signing someone this good for under his probable normal market value is incredible business, and he has the physical and technical talents to succeed in West London. I have some questions about the fit and whether he is able to function as a lone striker, but I believe he has grown enough as a player to succeed in multiple ways in different positions in the attack. I think this is going to be a very successful signing for Chelsea, and it will act as the key cog in a Blues team that is aiming to challenge for titles once again.

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