Four years ago, two new faces arrived at RB Leipzig and together they led the team to their best ever finish, runners-up behind Bayern Munich in the Bundesliga. Those two new arrivals, head coach Ralph Hasenhüttl and star striker Timo Werner, are set to meet as opponents for the first time since today, as Chelsea host Southampton at Stamford Bridge.
It was in those two years together at Leipzig that Werner started to establish himself as a top-level player, and he credits the former striker-turned-renowned-coach for helping him in the crucial early stages of that process.
“Hassenhüttl was always a manager who stood behind his players. He was not a guy who looked after himself. He was always there for me when I needed help, or when he was asked about me in front of the media, he always stood by me and gave me support.
“That was really good for me to have a manager like this, and the sporting director Ralf Rangnick. Both gave me the feeling I was not alone in this situation. It allowed me to concentrate on my game and not worry about other things.”
But that sort of familiarity can be used for more than just nice stories, good vibes and warm hugs — though the latter’s probably not allowed these days. It can be used for far more pragmatic purposes as well. After all, Hasenhüttl’s system hasn’t changed much, if at all, since his days in the Bundesliga, and Werner knows where the weakness is.
“The style Hassenhüttl wants to play in Southampton is exactly the same style he wanted to play at Leipzig when I was there. I nearly know what he wants to do and what his plan is, but he has a really good team. I saw his team in some games, they are very strong and we have to be careful in the game because they are very dangerous.
“On the other side, they defend high which could give us some chances where we could maybe go for our game because we are a team who always can press high or make fast counter-attacks. I think it will be an open game where we have to defend very well, and when we do this we will have chances to make turnovers and play our game.”
-Timo Werner; source: Chelsea FC
Of course, knowing is one thing. Actually doing is another. Execution is still required, and required at a quality level. As Saints’ 2-0 win at Stamford Bridge on Boxing Day showed last year, they are more than capable of causing an upset.
Hopefully we can avoid any such setbacks this time around, and maybe with a Werner goal or two to boot.