Timo Werner, a center forward who scored more goals than just about anybody not named Robert Lewandowski in the Bundesliga in recent seasons, has been playing mostly on the left wing for Chelsea. It’s a solution forced partly by injuries to other players in attack, but also partly decided on by the head coach to utilize Werner’s speed and finishing prowess away from the congested middle populated by the stereotypically hulking defenders of English football.
But the finishing quality has gone a bit missing in recent weeks, which has led to increased questioning about Lampard’s tactics and their utilization of Werner. Frank’s insistence on sticking to a winger-based formation with a squad largely devoid of any actual (or fit) wingers has undoubtedly contributed to our current two-match losing streak.
For Werner himself, it’s also contributing to a rockier adjustment period, having to learn not only a new league and a new team, but a new position as well. Although part of his decision to join Chelsea was down to Lampard’s promise that he would get to play in various positions, right now may not be the ideal time to do so.
“It’s not yet what I imagined myself. I am always ambitious and set myself high standards. I want to score goals and take responsibility, like I did in Leipzig.
“I now play a completely different position than at RB. I came through the middle, out of the attacking midfield. With Julian Nagelsmann I even played as an 8 sometimes. This is of course something completely different now, I have to find myself again here.
“I’ve played good games here on the left and on the right wing, but I’ve never been able to radiate the goal danger that distinguished me from the centre at Leipzig.
Of his team-leading (jointly with Olivier Giroud) eight goals, only two have come as a center forward, both against Southampton. That’s only one less as a left winger, but he’s only started six games at center forward and has also won several penalties during that time (which he didn’t get to take, as at that time, Jorginho was still the primary taker). Werner has since added three goals from the spot, but the record shows that in his 13 starts on the wing, he has just 3 non-penalty goals. Perhaps tellingly, most of those have come with Tammy Abraham at center forward rather than the less dynamic Giroud.
From @honigstein on Werner's preferred position: "He doesn't. He said that part of what attracted him to Chelsea is that Lampard said to him 'I don't have a fixed position for you. I will play you in different positions depending on what we need that day against the opposition'."— Grant James (@grantdesmidt) December 18, 2020
It’s tough to put too much weight behind these numbers as they are all very small sample sizes — and his numbers from the wing would look much better if he hadn’t missed at least three ridiculous chances — so we’ll just have to trust that Werner knows what he’s talking about when it comes to his own abilities and comfort levels. That’s not to say that he doesn’t like playing on the left, or that he will stop trying to do his best and find the goals that we’re all expecting from him.
“The Premier League is different. Of course, I’ve already shown that I can make the difference in the league, but I also played a few games where I honestly have to say: It wasn’t anything!
“Despite everything, I have a lot of fun here and I hope that the goals are slowly coming in and that I can make my game a little more variable over the left.”
Lampard has recently defended his formation and tactics, so we can probably expect Werner to once again line up on the wing as we take on West Ham tonight at the Bridge.
Here’s hoping for some new shooting boots!