The relief painted across Timo Werner’s face following his decisive goal against West Ham to nudge Chelsea towards securing Champions League football next season was evident.
The German has endured a troubling season but his maturity and patience has been clear throughout – and now is his time, he can sense it.
Despite several painful moments, even Werner’s biggest critics could not accuse him of disappearing or accepting his fate in the way Alvaro Morata and others perhaps did in their time at Stamford Bridge. The 25-year-old has always stood up with an uncanny ability to always be in the vicinity of a chance or two, while also performing a selfless role for the team with his movement towards and down the channels.
That is predominantly why Frank Lampard and now Thomas Tuchel have persevered with him so much, even if some might suggest the club’s hefty £48 million investment has also played a part.
It’s now 20 goal involvements (goals and assists combined) in all competitions this season for Werner, more than any other teammate. So while his impact has not been as lethal as anticipated, there has still been a significant output.
Tuesday night therefore presents a unique opportunity for Werner personally, against Real Madrid in the Champions League semi-finals. The German is clearly itching to snatch redemption after walking away from RB Leipzig’s thrilling run to the semi-finals last term, spurning the chance to be involved from the quarter-finals onwards in Portugal in order to focus on his move to the Premier League.
“We all want to reach the final,” Werner said following victory over the Hammers on Saturday. “To win it is the dream of every kid. The Champions League is the most difficult cup in the world to win.
“When you have the chance you have to go for it. We are not here due to luck. We are here because we work hard.
“I had a lot of criticism for that in Germany. Now I reach it with my new club. That’s a good thing for me to show I can do it with two teams in two years. It makes me proud and more hungry to make it to the final this year.”
It is not to say Werner has recaptured the deadly form routinely seen with Leipzig, there are still painful moments as Tuchel watches on from the sideline. The German tactician could be seen utterly bewildered at the London Stadium when Werner slid a rebound narrowly wide of a post from just five yards out after gathering a rebound from Mason Mount’s shot. While his guilt-edged misses have not been contained solely to his club, with Germany also recently suffering from his lack of composure in front of goal.
But the underlying truth behind upcoming reviews of his debut season in England is that Werner can play a crucial role in a memorable campaign with perhaps as little as one more defining display.
If his ruthless edge is still lacking inside the box, his judgement as to when he sets off in deeper areas of the pitch to stretch opponents has been impressive and crucial to the side’s transformation under Tuchel. The safety-first nature of Tuchel’s system, without mastering intricate attacking patterns yet, is only effective right now, in part, due to Werner’s ability to create space for others.
Now one of Chelsea’s most unique weapons, Real Madrid will have to contend with his unpredictable movement and searing pace, which undid treble-chasing Manchester City in the FA Cup semi-final nine days ago.
There is the promise of more to come, with Understat valuing Werner’s xG in the Premier League at 12.5 goals – a league-high 6.5 more than his total of six to date.
However, despite optimism for next season and beyond, few opportunities to come will top this semi-final against the 13-time winners of Europe’s greatest club competition – no matter what either club thought eight days ago about a European Super League.
So after battling through adversity to merely be involved here, Werner’s big moment has finally arrived.
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