In football, confidence is everything.
Without it, you cannot win games, you will not secure silverware and, in Timo Werner’s case, you cannot score goals.
It has been a torrid few months in front of goal for Werner. Just one goal in his last 21 league appearances, no goal whatsoever for two monthsand in the worst rut of form in his entire career. After eight goals in his opening 12 games, nothing has been going the German’s way.
Last week’s defeat to West Bromwich Albion summed up Werner’s sorrows. Finding himself open, one-on-one and in front of goal, he chose to roll the ball over to Mason Mount to score, rather than thrashing it in himself like any striker would.
To think that the 25-year-old was one of Europe’s deadliest strikers last season, you would not think you are watching the same player from recent showings. Whatever Werner tries, he cannot find the back of the net.
So, what has happened to Timo Werner?
The initial answer was simple. Despite being an instinctive striker, former manager Frank Lampard was adamant in playing Werner as a left winger, away from the action he was so often habitual to.
It did work at first – the German delivered nine goal contributions in 15 appearances from out wide – but it soon proved to be a tactical blunder. After all, why would you sign one of the continent’s finest goalscorers, only to play him out of position? Even if Werner can play out wide, it is far from his forte, rather bred as a natural number nine.
By the time Werner was finally back up top, he was 11 games into his goal drought. Too little, too late.
Today, the picture is a confusing one.
Despite his clear struggles on the pitch, the German has 21 goal contributions in 40 games, sitting pretty as Chelsea’s third top scorer in all competitions. The numbers imply a solid season, but actual viewing suggests otherwise.
Werner has been playing regularly – the joint-most appearances alongside Mount – and has even had his moments this season. His debut goal against Tottenham was one to savour, while his Southampton brace was a thing of beauty.
He has even been playing in his two preferred positions: out on the left wing, or as the main striker. A goal or assist every two games is a great return, whatever your role may be. Yet for every roll of the dice, Werner has not rolled a lucky six.
What is most frustrating, is that everyone knows what a talent Werner is. His tally in his final season at RB Leipzig was stunning, recording 47 goal contributions in 45 appearances. He is even the third-highest scoring German striker in Europe’s top five leagues this campaign, behind Johannes Eggestein and Kevin Volland.
Nonetheless, Werner is lacking that cutting edge, that killer instinct, that final touch which allows him to be a striker to fear rather than one who is fearful himself.
There seems to be an aura of self-doubt for the German, not having faith in his own ability. It is harsh to say, but when it feels like Chelsea have exhausted every other option – even switching managers – one has to ask those tough questions.
Werner is lacking confidence and self-belief, seemingly struggling to overcome some sort of mental block when he is in on goal. He works hard, keeps his head up and never gives up, but there is a sight of pain and anguish that we have become familiarised to after every missed chance.
If there is one club that knows about unconfident strikers, it is the Blues.
Fernando Torres took over 15 hours to score his first goal for Chelsea, a lack of confidence was the downfall for fellow Spaniard Álvaro Morata, while Andriy Shevchenko never hit the dizzy heights expected of him. Werner cannot join that list, nor should he.
While it has been difficult to say the least, it is not a be all, end all. It cannot be forgotten that Werner is still in his first season at Chelsea, which itself has not even reached its conclusion with a crucial two months ahead. This is just the start of Werner’s Blues career, with so much time ahead of him.
The road has been rocky and the mountain often steep, but Werner can achieve great things at Stamford Bridge. He was brought from the Bundesliga for a reason, and we have seen glimmers of his abilities as a talisman.
Patience and trust have often been absent virtues in west London, but if the Blues can continue to believe in Werner, he will pay dividends in due course. Rushing in to buy yet another striker may seem logical, but at the end of the day, all it does is continue a toxic cycle of impatient and toxic management at the highest level.
Times are tough for Werner, but he will prove what he is capable of.
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