Timo Werner’s first season at Chelsea ended with the German forward winning the Champions League, but more will be expected of him during the 2021/22 campaign.
The grin across the face of Timo Werner as he reflected on his first season as a Chelsea player was in stark contrast to the words he was about to utter. “I think for me, [this is] the unluckiest season I ever had and I will have, maybe,” he said. “Worse, it can’t be.”
Werner’s assessment was delivered after the Blues’ final Premier League home game of the 2020/21 campaign: a vital 2-0 victory over Leicester City in which the German forward had two goals ruled out – one of offside, the other handball – before he earned a crucial second-half penalty which Jorginho converted.
The 90-minute display encapsulated Werner’s debut campaign at Chelsea. It was one full of energy, selflessness, and hard running. Yet when it came to putting the ball in the back of the net, a combination of poor fortune, slightly mistimed movements, and suspect finishing proved his undoing.
Yet despite all that, the 25-year-old did score 12 times for Chelsea following his £49.5million move from RB Leipzig. He reached double figures (14) in assists too. And, of course, he ended the campaign celebrating with the Champions League trophy in Porto. So not all bad then.
After the final in Portugal, Werner and Chelsea teammates Kai Havertz and Antonio Rudiger took a couple of days off before joining up with the Germany squad for Euro 2020.
The forward started just once – the last-16 defeat to England – and didn’t get on the scoresheet in his limited opportunities during the tournament.
Werner departed for his summer break after the loss at Wembley. He is expected to return to Cobham this week and there will be a greater expectation placed upon the German international this term.
As Thomas Tuchel explained in May, there can no mitigating factors to blame for poor performances or wasteful finishing this time around.
“He’s still young and can still improve,” the Chelsea head coach said in May.
“This is what we demand week by week. When he has some time to reflect, rest, some time on holiday for mental rest, I’m sure he can take the next steps next year.
“He is not new anymore, he will know the environment, what he is coming back to, his teammates, what he is up against on the first game, and how to adapt. This will help him.
“We try to push the process right now because we need him.”
Werner’s woes in front of goal last season were almost impossible to predict. During his time at RB Leipzig, he established a reputation as a reliable finisher – per FBRef, he outperformed his expected goals in the two seasons prior to his switch to Stamford Bridge.
Yes, he was occasionally reliant on a handful of chances coming his way in games and there were high-profile misses. But the belief was that, more often than not, he would find the back of the net when it mattered.
That wasn’t the case with Chelsea. In the Premier League last term, Werner’s expected goals per 90 was a strong 0.41 per 90. Yet his actual goals per 90 stood at 0.21.
That is a huge underperformance, one that in theory cost Werner six top-flight goals during the 2020/22 season. It can’t be repeated, especially if Chelsea are unable to land the ruthless number nine, Erling Haaland or Romelu Lukaku, they crave.
In Tuchel, Werner has a strong supporter. Someone who values his work rate without the ball and willingness to constantly stretch defences. And that certainly helped the former RB Leipzig star laugh through his difficult moments.
But the Chelsea head coach has already laid out to Werner that there can be no excuses to fall back on this term. He has to deliver, has to be the difference-maker the Blues expected, has to prove Tuchel right.