What was one of the most protracted transfer stories in recent memory has finally come to an end; Timo Werner of RasenBallsport Leipzig is off to… Chelsea.
Despite persistent rumours that the Germany international starlet was set to join compatriot Jürgen Klopp at Anfield, the Stuttgart-native is seemingly primed to link up with Frank Lampard’s youth revolution at Stamford Bridge. Whether it was a change of heart from Werner or a shift in FSG’s finances in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic was the cause, Blues supporters are – once again – poised to welcome one of the hottest commodities in Europe to SW6.
In Werner, Chelsea would be inheriting a player of unquestionable potential. One who already remains in the discussion of being one of Europe’s prolific forwards over the past few seasons.
Since leaving his boyhood club, Werner’s goal return for RB Leipzig has been impressive, to the tune of 92 goals and 39 assists in a combined 154 appearances for the Saxony-based side. But questions may remain exactly how he will fit into Chelsea’s current tactical schematic under Lampard.
There was always the debate of whether Liverpool was the right destination for Werner. His ability is unquestioned, but one had to wonder if the pacy forward would be able to oust any of the Reds’ current front-three of Roberto Firmino, Mohamed Salah, or Sadio Mané. The holding European champions possess arguably one of the best forward combinations on the continent and Werner was sure to have to fight for every minute he received at Anfield unless a change in tactical doctrine was on the cards for Klopp. At Chelsea, it’s presumed this will be different.
Immediately, Werner – if the deal is finalised – should be considered the Blue’s best attacking option, certainly at centre-forward – something he cannot say at Liverpool. But more importantly, Lampard has shown the tactical flexibility to utilise Werner effectively without alienating the other young forwards he has used to great effect this season.
Though four of their last seven domestic matches saw the Lampard deploy his side in a 4-3-3, Lampard regularly turned to a 4-2-3-1, 4-1-4-1, and 3-4-2-1 this season both domestically and in the Champions League. In players like Tammy Abraham, Christian Pulisic, Callum Hudson-Odoi and Olivier Giroud, Werner would still fit in comfortably, though perhaps not most effectively as the lone centre-forward.
Most effective through the middle and in tandem with a strike partner (reflected by his numbers on the season; 21 of his 25 goals and all his assists have come as a CF), the possibility of Lampard deploying the German next to either Giroud or Abraham would seem tactically astute. This would then still allow a fit Pulisic and Hudson-Odoi to be utilised on both flanks as well, offering a very balanced attacking quartet.
Such a change up front may cause issues in the centre of the park as it would facilitate a shift from three in midfield to two, but Chelsea would still have depth in quality to choose from based off tactical need or simply standard rotation.
All in all, should the transfer reach completion, Chelsea have done a bit of a madness, essentially still coming out with a profit after selling Alvaro Morata to Atlético Madrid and ending up with a forward they could potentially offer up a real total challenge with. Lampard’s young core of players look primed to propel the Blues genuinely back into the conversation once again.
By Andrew Thompson.