If ever there were a player to which the phrase “couldn’t hit a barn door with a banjo” applied best, then it is Timo Werner at Chelsea.
Just months ago, Werner arrived in England with the reputation of being one of the continent’s best marksmen, second only in the Bundesliga to Robert Lewandowski (recently voted this year’s best player).
With such pedigree and a hefty £47.5 million price tag to boot – expectations were high for the German at Chelsea, who beat stiff competition from Liverpool to his signature. Having said that, Werner was expected to match, if not exceed those lofty goals; such was the hype that surrounded the supremely talented poacher on his arrival at Heathrow.
It’s fair to say, however, that as of yet, Chelsea are yet to see a tangible return on their sizeable investment. Werner has 4 goals in 15 league games thus far – hardly something to sniff at if it were not for the high bar he set while at RB Leipzig.
It’s the second time Timo #Werner has gone 11 games without a goal in his top flight career.
— BOLU (@TheBoluSport) December 28, 2020
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So what’s going wrong with Werner?
So what’s going wrong? For starters, Werner’s confidence in the box seems to have dropped – his conversion rate inside the penalty area was three times better at Leipzig last year than what it is now at Stamford Bridge.
He is also averaging one less shot in the box per game – not good at all for a poacher. The reason for this, however, is the fact the former Stuttgart man is played primarily on the left of a front three by Frank Lampard – not quite where you’d want a seasoned fox-in-the-box to be.
Whilst Werner has played there before, both for Germany and for Leipzig, the majority of his games in the Bundesliga and Europe were played leading the line.
In most of these games, too, Timo Werner was a member of a front two, as Die Roten Bullen chose to employ a little-and-large duo of Werner and (most often) one of Patrik Schick or the excellent Yussuf Poulsen, to great effect.
Both Poulsen and Schick are tall, rangy strikers but also adept dribblers, who draw a defense’s attention. This allowed the smaller Werner, therefore, to drift out wide and between the channels, dragging defenders out of position to beat them on and especially off the dribble with his speed.
If Frank Lampard were to consider altering his system to suit his expensive summer signing, the solution is simple; play Werner in a similar role to the one he performed in Germany, alongside the taller Tammy Abraham, who has quietly been enjoying an excellent season himself.
This does, however, mean one less position is available for an attacking midfielder. Lampard will be hesitant to do this, though, when his squad is bursting with some of Europe’s premier young talents in Mason Mount, Hakim Ziyech, and Kai Havertz – all attack-minded youngsters.
But if maximizing the output of his marquee forward signing is the goal, then playing him out wide is not the solution. Play Werner up front in a system to suit his talents, and who knows – he might just hit the barn door with a few banjos yet.