Timo Werner had just turned 25 on March 8 and was lost. He wandered the parallelogram of Stamford Bridge looking for spaces of untrodden grass. He explored the block of Keane, Godfrey, Holgate, Allan, and Gomes, Everton’s vigilante quintet, like a lone adventurer in a closed forest. When he finally found a clearing in the jungle, after a run, a feint, or a diversionary maneuver, he hardly ever synchronized with the passing of his teammates, because most of them were too far away.
The boy was in trouble when Thomas Tuchel, his coach, started yelling at him from the sidelines: “Timo, how long will you stay on the left? You are playing on the right! The last 15 minutes you’ve only been on the left! You do not understand?”.
Tuchel has been arguing with Werner in public for a month. Neither the player seems to understand the coach, nor does the coach empathize with the player. Obsessed with a certain imaginary order, Tuchel does not seem to notice that in the real world the creation of passing lanes, the first task of the contemporary forward, is a chimera against withdrawn rivals such as Everton, or Atlético, if only another attacker, a playmaker, and two lanes without much sense of the association, as expected by this Chelsea. It is suffered by Werner, who since November 7 has only scored two goals: one against Newcastle in the Premier League and another against Norecambe in the Cup, the team with the shrimp on the shield, from the Fourth Division.
Werner’s drought presents him as the culprit to the English media, who point him out as primarily responsible for Chelsea’s relative lack of goal. Asked about the crisis of his partner and countryman, this Tuesday Antonio Rüdiger was compassionate: “Timo doesn’t stop running; he is trying everything to turn the situation around. I think you need to be calm and dedicate yourself to working hard and in silence ”.
Werner became the sixth most expensive signing in the last summer market. He cost just over € 50 million after scoring 34 goals, and giving 13 assists in 45 games last season for Leipzig in a completely different association football context than Chelsea. They asked Tuchel what he thought of the rumors that his player wants to return to Germany after failing at a club with a long history of highly regarded forwards who, such as Shevchenko, Torres, Morata or Salah, failed to succeed. “Timo has no reason to be frustrated, he doesn’t have to think about what will happen next summer,” replied the coach; “He had a great game against Liverpool and Everton. He generated many chances that he normally converts. Not marking can affect your confidence. But we advise you not to focus on the result but on the process: ‘decide well, master the technique, and the ball will do the rest’. No one here is blaming the strikers for not scoring ”.
Chelsea have 13 goals in 12 games. “It’s my fault!” Tuchel proclaimed in the press conference prior to receiving Atlético. The German coach said he did not hold his tips responsible, but he also said more or less the opposite. “If we choose a central line it is because we want them to leave a clean sheet in a specific game, not once every three games,” he said. “The same thing happens with forwards: if we line them up we want them to always score. If you play at the highest level there is no time: you don’t have three or four games in a row until you score regularly. We try to keep the scorers mentally focused, we squeeze them, we try to get the whole team to coordinate the pressure to generate chances. We give enough touches inside the rival area, we generate enough chances to score more goals. We just need to be more precise. Our forwards are aware of this and have a high level of self-demand. Clearly, we have to improve the completion. “
In less than two months, Tuchel has stabilized a broken team by implanting a rear of five that has barely conceded two goals. But it is unlikely that the solidity that has allowed him to get among the top four classified in the Premier is enough to take him to the podium of the Champions League. This Chelsea without much complicity or imagination in the last third of the field will suffer if it tries to limit the London game to the 0-1 defense of the first leg. You will need to dial. You will need your forwards to tune up against the worst possible opponent. “It will be difficult to find spaces behind Atlético’s lines and it will be super difficult to generate opportunities,” Tuchel warned.
This Wednesday, Timo Werner will go in with little assistance to look for supplies in the no man’s land of the countryside that Cholo governs. On the success or failure of his mission will depend the future of one of the most refined talents in Europe in the thankless art of throwing off marks.