June 3, 2023

Timo Werner got a rare day in the sun against his favourite opponent as Thomas Tuchel again makes the most out of his squad

For Timo Werner, Saturday must have felt like a massive relief. With his Chelsea career heading firmly towards its sorry end, with every passing performance, it appeared any glimpse of the striker Chelsea thought they had bought sapped away.

Against Southampton, Thomas Tuchel and the boisterous travelling support under the south coast sun got peak-Werner. This was the devastating speed £47m was invested in and on a very rare occasion, Werner was gifted a defence of his design.

Rather than Southampton in the Premier League, this game could have been played at Stuttgart in the Bundesliga. His first goal of the afternoon was the perfect archetype of the style of finish he’d execute for Leipzig.

READ MORE: Thomas Tuchel handed £18m mission to solve Conor Gallagher Chelsea puzzle amid World Cup worry

Ralph Hasenhuttl’s press was deconstructed brutally by Chelsea, allowing the front two of Werner and Kai Havertz to dart behind and stretch play, most emphasised by the opening goal that used the width of the pitch before Marcos Alonso broke the deadlock.

Werner’s eyes widened when a loose header back by James Ward-Prowse created a foot-race between the forward and Jan Bednarek. The German was always going to win, though credit should come with his composed finish, guiding the ball away from Fraser Forster before slotting into an empty net.

His 49th-minute goal was much simpler, guiding home a rebound after a N’Golo Kante effort was saved to the continuing joy of the loud away support.

There is no getting around how perfect an opponent the Saints are for Werner. Given his unimpressive goal record since arriving in 2020, five of the 26-year-old’s nine league goals have come against the Saints, his first two for Chelsea in the manic 3-3 draw in October 2020.


“So it was set out for him to deliver, honestly. We were not set out in a 4-1-4-1 with him on the side, everything was there for him to deliver and make a statement that he has not given up, that he is still an important player of this club and this group.” Tuchel said on Werner after post-game.

This performance was not without its “Wernerisms”. Even before his six-month wait for his next league goal was ended he struck the woodwork three times. Once from distance, the other from point-blank range after a perfect cross by Ruben Loftus-Cheek, the last came at the end of a mazy run, the rebound falling kindly to his compatriot Havertz to score.

The aforementioned Loftus-Cheek, as Werner did, used the afternoon to brush off recent frustrations and regain some confidence at a crucial time. It was a surprise to see the midfielder as a wingback when the lineup was announced.

Although Tuchel did infer after the game that his two wingbacks on the day were tasked with operating more as midfielders to counteract Southampton’s threats. “The role was a bit different as a wing-back today. We wanted him [Loftus-Cheek] to be inside almost as a number eight and drive with the ball. We tried it, he accepted it and made the most of it. Was a very good performance.”

“That was the idea behind it but, of course, it’s not about the idea. It’s about how we played, how committed we played, and with what quality we played. It was a different mindset today. A different attitude. And it was then followed by all the quality.”

Reece James came on for Thiago Silva in the second half and will likely return to his natural role on Tuesday against Real Madrid, but Loftus-Cheek’s impressive display once again showcased Tuchel’s ability to make the most out of his current squad.

Loftus-Cheek found space on the overlap, having a hand in the build-up to the first two goals and creating the overloads that are vital to the way the Blues build up, particularly after Tuchel opted to switch from a front three to a split-striker formation.

Both Werner and Loftus-Cheek could still see their futures elsewhere following the conclusion of this season, but for one pleasurable afternoon, they contributed to an important victory.


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