When Chelsea acquired Timo Werner in 2020, the German was one of Europe’s most promising young forwards. With RB Leipzig, the German amassed an impressive tally of 78 goals in 127 matches in his four seasons.
Consistent performances brought European giants to his, and the club’s doorstep. Chelsea won the Timo Werner sweepstakes, shelling out over $58 million for his services.
The striker heightened hopes and ambitions into Stamford Bridge. In Werner particularly, Chelsea supporters saw the new signing as the best candidate to break the club’s striker curse plaguing the club for the last decade.
Following two seasons with the Blues, Timo Werner finds himself back at RB Leipzig, sold on a permanent deal for almost a third of what Chelsea paid originally. That two-year tenure featured prodigious peaks. Yet, most supporters remember the dire valleys more vividly. His legacy at Stamford Bridge failed to live up to the billing, another link in the chain of Chelsea’s recent struggles at that position following Didier Drogba.
Here is what went wrong for Timo Werner in his short-lived tenure at Chelsea.
A Spotty Start
To start the 2020/21 campaign, the Blues suffered a rocky duality in terms of performances on the pitch. The new attacking options and bolstered squad proved clinical against lower and mid-table teams. At the same time, struggles persisted against the top-six and other stronger sides with talent. Nevertheless, with six goals in his first 10 starts, Werner provided a new dynamism to the Blues’ attack. His nimble and swift inverted runs behind defenders, along with a knack for easily finding himself in goal-scoring chances, terrorized opposition.
Positionally, Werner often switched from his usual No. 9 to left wing under Lampard’s 4-3-3. This accommodated the previous season’s top scorer, Tammy Abraham. “Turbo Timo” was no stranger to playing on the left side of the attack. He exhibited the same flexibility under Julian Nagelsmann at RB Leipzig. As time passed Werner’s impact on the flank at Chelsea became seemingly more questionable.
Despite the Blues sitting comfortably on the brink of top 4, lackluster performances against teams of higher caliber put into question Lampard’s long term ability to lead the team towards glory.
Werner, a constant menace in the opposing final third, began showing a lack of output. The once prolific scorer earned an inconvenient reputation of missing clear-cut chances. Oftentimes, this came in pivotal moments of matches.
New manager and new tactics
In mid-January, only a year after his appointment, Chelsea sacked manager Frank Lampard. The club’s horrid run of form amidst a season of high expectations prompted a club legend to pass through Chelsea’s revolving door of managers.
In his stead, PSG manager Thomas Tuchel took the reigns at Stamford Bridge. He had the responsibility of making the most out of a clearly talented and potent Chelsea squad. Despite the German tactician’s messy departures from his previous clubs, his winning reputation preceded him. Hence, he made an immediate impact at Stamford Bridge.
Under new management and a rejuvenated direction, Chelsea went on a 14-game unbeaten run. Notable wins included Liverpool and Manchester City. While the team regained its form under the new boss, Werner’s confidence continued to dwindle. In his first 10 games under Tuchel, he only managed to score once. Even then, he showed his ability as a playmaker with three assists.
In the face of mediocre performances, Werner retained his role as a frequent starter. The German’s ability stretched beyond putting the ball in the back of the net. Moreover, conventional strikers Olivier Giroud and Tammy Abraham did not gel with Tuchel’s new system. Therefore, Werner received more opportunities to establish his value.
The German national started virtually all Champions League knockout games. This included the final against Manchester City, eventually playing a crucial role in Chelsea’s magical winning campaign.
Timo Werner’s mounting issues at Chelsea
After Champions League glory, the Blues wasted no time in expanding their squad. To build upon winning ambitions, Chelsea wanted more depth. Most notably, the acquisition of Romelu Lukaku from Inter bolstered an inconsistent attack. The Belgian would be the new target man at Chelsea.
Consequently, Werner’s role in Tuchel’s Chelsea slowly began to tip. Lukaku earned priority in the starting lineup. In fact, in the first 15 games of the season, Werner started just six times. Meanwhile, Lukaku picked up four goals in his first five games in Chelsea’s blue.
Yet, the honeymoon phase for the Belgian ended abruptly. A goal drought ensued ending with an unfortunate injury in October. Adding insult to injury, a dubious interview with Sky Sports put into question Lukaku’s true intentions about returning to the Bridge.
Despite Lukaku seeming out of the picture in some ways, Werner failed to capitalize on the unexpected window of opportunity. A strain picked up in the same game as Lukaku’s injury sidelined Werner for a month. This started a series of bad luck that prevented the German from picking up any momentum. Upon returning in November, Werner missed another six matches in a bout with COVID-19.
In the new year, the German saw hopes of resolution dissipate. Lukaku returned from injury and was once more allotted priority. Alongside Lukaku, Kai Havertz embarked on a run of excellent play. Plus, a number of attacking players clamored for minutes under Tuchel. Mason Mount, Hakim Ziyech and Christian Pulisic all gave Werner few minutes to prove his worth.
The finish to the Blues 2021/2022 campaign was tumultuous, to say the least. Numerous impediments occurred off the pitch induced by the freezing of club funds by the UK government amidst political skepticism about Roman Abramovich’s ownership of the club.
On the pitch, the team’s luck fell to the same faith. Apart from ceremonial victories in the Club World Cup and UEFA Supercup, domestic silverware escaped the team’s grasp with two heartbreaking penalty shootout defeats in the FA Cup and Carabao Cup to Liverpool. In the Champions League, the Blues bowed out to the eventual victors Real Madrid in the quarter-finals.
Finally, an underwhelming run of final games in the Premier League capped off a rocky campaign for the Blues, who still managed to finish 3rd.
In the most recent summer window under the new ownership of Todd Boehly, the club once again showed enormous ambition. Although Chelsea failed to acquire all its lofty targets in the summer of 2022, the successful acquisitions are nothing to frown upon. Kalidou Koulibaly is a natural replacement for the outgoing Antonio Rüdiger. In attack, proven Premier League forward Raheem Sterling signed from Man City for a fee of around $62 million.
Sterling’s arrival weakened Werner’s position at Stamford Bridge. Understandably, the battle for playing time looked tough. Plus, the importance of that playing time reached an all-time high with a mid-season World Cup to try to reach with Germany.
Hence, after two seasons in blue, Werner opted for a change. The 26-year-old transferred back to RB Leipzig for $22 million. At Leipzig, Werner hopes to recapture the form he experienced during his previous spell at the club—starting a slow grind to work his way back to fulfilling the potential that once touted him as one of Europe’s elite goal scorers.
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