Chelsea left wondering what could have been as Timo Werner’s coup ends in failure

It was the second day of Project Restart in the Premier League. As the land emptied, the belts tightened. Or most of them, anyway. Chelsea took advantage of others’ inability to spend, turning to Roman’s bank. They have activated Timo Werner’s release clause at RB Leipzig. It was a time when deploying Roman Abramovich’s funds seemed more like a legitimate ploy. And, with budgets frozen elsewhere in uncertainty, Chelsea stole a march on Europe’s top flight by signing the Bundesliga’s two most coveted young talents.

A Kai Havertz seemingly linked to Real Madrid has been redirected to Stamford Bridge. Werner, who had long sought a move to Liverpool, joined his compatriot in London. Havertz has a Champions League final winner to show for during a mixed spell at Chelsea, as well as the possibility of the potential being realised. Werner has the medal but as he retires to return to Leipzig it is for around half of its original price. A transfer fee of £25m would represent a similar loss for Chelsea. Coupled with the likelihood that they’ll end up canceling much more on Romelu Lukaku, after his reunion took the form of a loan move to Inter Milan, and the latest examples of Abramovich’s largesse haven’t had the benefits. desired for Chelsea. Rather than inheriting a powerful offense, Clearlake Capital may have bought into trouble.

Werner was the putsch that wasn’t. In all competitions, he finished with 23 goals in 89 appearances for Chelsea: disappointing but not as bad as his Premier League return of 10 in 56. In terms of goals-per-game ratio, that was under Andriy Shevchenko (nine out of 48) and just below Fernando Torres (20 out of 110). His final Bundesliga season left him second behind Robert Lewandowski in goals, with 28. Over two years in the Premier League he was in a class of his own, albeit as an expected underachievers. He ended up with 9.5 fewer goals than he should have, depending on the quality of the chances, and an embarrassing portfolio of misses.

Along the way, there are comparisons and consequences. A week before Werner’s departure, Diogo Jota signed an improved contract with Liverpool. He had three years left on his previous deal but, as Jurgen Klopp explained, the Portuguese had been even better than expected. Rewind two years and Klopp explained that Liverpool pulled out of a move for Werner because they couldn’t commit £50m or £60m to the striker without knowing what their earnings would be. They eventually acquired Jota for a low upfront fee and much lower salaries. He duly scored many more goals.

It seems like a case of Klopp’s amazing ability to come out stronger and the Liverpool manager had no reason to regret those who got away. Werner, however, might lament the move that was not. Chelsea’s slow build-up game hardly suited a runner looking to get behind defensive defences, which is a problem Lukaku also experienced, and his goals-per-game ratio, while still disappointing, was better under Frank Lampard, in the middle of a more open. style of play, than Thomas Tuchel. Cautious, controlled football did not benefit him as many of his goals at Leipzig featured the kind of high-speed flurries down the inside left channel that characterized Sadio Mane’s strikes at Anfield and could now become a feature of Darwin’s finishes Nunez. Klopp likes forwards who excel in goalscoring positions and remained a strength of Werner at Chelsea: converting chances once there, however, failed to do so, amid a crisis of confidence.

But there was also the ripple effect of the sudden availability of Werner and Havertz. As Chelsea emerged from their transfer embargo, with the era of Pedro and Willian seemingly coming to an end, Lampard devised a new forward line. Christian Pulisic produced his best form at Chelsea in the months when Werner’s release clause had been activated but he had yet to arrive. Hakim Ziyech’s arrival had been arranged in a pre-Covid world. Tammy Abraham scored 15 Premier League goals in a season.

Ziyech can leave now. He and Pulisic spent two years as luxury team players, plans for them were torn apart while Havertz and Werner were often favourites. Tuchel’s appointment was a fork for Abraham but, while he and Werner are barely duplicates, the Englishman has scored more goals in one season for Roma than the German in two for Chelsea.

Werner’s 23 included at least two against Real Madrid, one in a Champions League semi-final win, another in what threatened to be an epic quarter-final comeback. They were glimpses of the player he can be. Perhaps the familiar environment of Leipzig will allow him to regain this ability to trouble defenses more often. If so, the winners of Werner’s Chelsea career could be the club that re-signed him for half the price and the one that decided, in 2020, that they couldn’t afford to. that time.

Chelsea left wondering what could have been as Timo Werner’s coup ends in failure

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