Chelsea wanted a prolific goalscorer last summer and thought spending £47.5m on Timo Werner would get the job done.
The German had just bagged 34 goals for RB Leipzig, but that translated to just 12 goals in his debut season in England, and now the Blues are spending £97.5m on Romelu Lukaku to finally find themselves that devastating marksman.
On paper, it sounds like very bad news for Werner, but it could actually be the signing needed to get the most out of the 25-year-old.
Despite what his form in England might suggest, Werner is actually very good at putting the ball in the back of the net, but he usually needs a little bit of help to get there.
At Leipzig, he would play off of the towering Yussuf Poulsen, who was more than happy to be the Robin to Werner’s Batman for the good of the team. The Dane would be the man to occupy defenders and provide those dainty flick-ons for Werner to collect and pounce on.
The results of that partnership were stunning. While Poulsen saw his goal numbers drop significantly, Leipzig became a whole new animal because of his activation of Werner.
We’ve seen glimpses of that at Chelsea alongside fellow German Kai Havertz, with whom Werner has developed a very good bond already. The problem, however, is that the pair are actually too similar, and neither really wants to be the focal point of an attack. They both drift and roam and exploit space, and while it’s fine to have two of those players in your team, you usually need a Poulsen-esque focal point of your attack to bring it all together.
Thomas Tuchel knows that, and that’s exactly why he’s going after Lukaku.
“[Lukaku] has the kind of profile that loves to play with his back towards the opponent’s goal, who likes to hold the ball and create space for Kai Havertz, for Timo Werner, for Christian Pulisic, who love to play around him,” he told Sky Sports.
“This is the kind of profile that we don’t have in our squad right now and are looking for.”
The only real dilemma for Werner is Chelsea’s logjam in the attacking midfield role. Havertz is likely going to play a lot of minutes, and we know just how much Tuchel values Mason Mount in that position. Those two stand to play a lot, and that’s before you factor in Christian Pulisic, Callum Hudson-Odoi and Hakim Ziyech.
You’d assume that Havertz, Mount and Werner will be the main competitors for that role. Pulisic and Hudson-Odoi have been trialled at wing-back in pre-season and Ziyech continues to be linked with an exit, but even if Tuchel is just choosing between those three, he’s going to have a hard job keeping them all happy.
A move away from the trusty 3-4-2-1 formation could be the answer. A 4-2-3-1 would create more opportunities for the three attacking midfielders, but will Tuchel sacrifice the formation that just won him the Champions League? The pursuit of Jules Kounde suggests otherwise.
For Werner, it’s going to be a case of simply proving he deserves to play. If he offers more than Mount or Havertz, he will start games. However, if he continues to frustrate, the minutes won’t come. It’s as easy as that. At a club as big (and as rich) as Chelsea, you don’t survive by coasting.
Fortunately, Lukaku should provide Werner with the missing piece to his puzzle and give the German the platform upon which he needs to prove himself.
Werner will have all the tools he could possibly want next season, but it’s down to him to bring everything together.