The international break has been an interesting time for Chelsea, with the attempts by Roman Abramovich to sell the club taking up the vast majority of column inches around the club. But while the future of the club off the pitch dominates, there has also been some interesting developments around the future of the team on it.
Like all Premier League sides, Chelsea sent a number of their players away on international duty last week. And like all clubs, they will monitor how their players get on, both performance-wise and in terms of fitness.
Thomas Tuchel will have been delighted to see Germany beat Israel 2-0 on Saturday – and not just because he is German. The win came courtesy of Kai Havertz and Timo Werner, who both got on the score sheet in the friendly in Hoffenheim’s stadium.
That was the good news. The interesting part came post-match, however, when Werner spoke to reporters about the contrast between his form for Germany and at Chelsea. “I’m a striker and always want to score,” he said. “Things aren’t going the way I’d like at Chelsea, so it’s all the better that things are going well here under Hansi Flick. I really enjoy playing football, no matter where I’m playing.
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Chelsea paid £53million for Werner in July 2020 for good reason. Werner was 24 years old and had serious pedigree, having netted 95 goals in 159 matches for RB Leipzig. Paying that much for a player would suggest the club had a good idea how they wanted to use him, but recent evidence shows that might not be the case.
Werner’s debut season, in which he managed 12 goals in 52 appearances, prompted the Blues to splash out a club-record £97.5m on Romelu Lukaku last summer. That is hardly a ringing endorsement of the previous year’s headline transfer.
The blame for Werner’s struggles at Stamford Bridge should, of course, lie partly with the player, who has missed countless presentable chances over the past 18 months. But his suggestion that “differences in the style of play” lie behind his poor record is worth analysing.
Werner’s great strength is his speed. He thrives on balls in behind the defence and service into the six-yard box. It is hard to argue that Chelsea are geared up to play that sort of style. But maybe they should.
There is a lot of uncertainty around the club at the moment, with Abramovich’s efforts to sell still ongoing. The bidders have been whittled down to four parties and there is hope a deal can be struck in the near future.
Yet for the time being, Chelsea are unable to buy or sell players or offer new contracts. Those simple facts will have an effect on the club’s summer transfer plans – and could mean they have to make do with what they’ve got. That shouldn’t be too difficult, considering the club paid over £220m for Lukaku, Werner and Havertz and potentially have Armando Broja returning from his Southampton loan.
With all of these doubts swirling around, Tuchel should be thinking about how to get the best out of Werner. After all, his form for Germany shows there is a player hiding under the shy exterior.