Despite months of speculation suggesting his move to Liverpool was a foregone conclusion, Timo Werner has snubbed the Reds in favour of a move to Stamford Bridge, after the Blues activated his £51m release clause.
Almost every major club in Europe has been linked with Werner at some point in the last 12 months, and it’s no surprise why.
The pacey forward has produced several years of elite numbers, and the recognition of him as one of Europe’s most feared attackers is a title that has been certainly justified thanks to his time at RB Leipzig.
Since his £12.6m move from his boyhood club Stuttgart, where he became the club’s youngest ever debutant, and youngest ever goalscorer, Werner has excelled, registering 15 non-penalty Bundesliga goals in three of his four campaigns at Leipzig.
Initially viewed as a pacey winger who may not amount to anything special at Stuttgart, Werner has come on leaps and bounds from the player who only scored six goals from an xG of 12 in his final campaign at Stuttgart.
Werner’s 25 goals and eight assists in the Bundesliga this campaign ranks second in Europe’s top five leagues for goal contributions, behind only Ciro Immobile and Lionel Messi who have contributed 34, with the German involved in a goal every 78 minutes in the German top flight.
Werner’s creativity is one of his more underrated qualities, and his 13 Big Chances created this season would actually rank first in Chelsea’s 19/20 squad.
Furthermore, Werner’s combined xG P90 + xA P90 tally of 1.11 this season rivals the best in the world; it betters the likes of the aforementioned Immobile (1.02) and Cristiano Ronaldo (0.99), whilst being only slightly inferior to Manchester City’s Sergio Aguero (1.15) and Barcelona’s Lionel Messi (1.26).
League performance - 19/20
|G + A||33||34||19||24||34|
|*League minutes only|
The German’s 4.1 shots, 1.9 dribbles and 1.7 Key Passes P90 represent very encouraging base numbers, and at just 24, he’s heading into the prime of his career.
HIS ROLE IN LEIPZIG
Werner’s tutelage under first Ralf Rangnick and now Julian Nagelsmann at Leipzig has played a significant role in the player he has become.
His ability to find the pockets of space between defenders, and utilise them, has become almost innate to him.
This has been evidently shown in 19/20, where the attacker has constantly found himself drifting out to the left, to not only help himself get into better goalscoring positions, but provide the space for the deeper-lying players such as Christopher Nkunku and Marcel Sabitzer to exploit.
Nagelsmann is one of the most tactically versatile managers in the world, with his team’s formation and style of play often changing four or five times a game. Werner’s role in the overall system is to play in the half space between the right back and right centre back, using his pace to get in behind.
Nagelsmann said of his evolution this season: "We’ve started him a bit deeper, we don’t want him right on the last line, because he needs a bit of a head start, a bit of tempo, in order to really show his pace on the pitch.
"When he’s on the last line, he often finds himself static when he needs to get going, but with a bit of room in front of him, he can hit top speed and from this deeper position, he’s much more involved in our build-up play and combinations.
"In the last few years all his moments have come in transition, whereas now he has his moments in combination play too."
Leipzig have experimented with a 4-2-2-2, a 3-4-1-2, a 3-4-3 and a 4-2-3-1 this season, yet the shape constantly changes throughout the match, which is what makes them so hard to contain.
Werner is crucial to this system, starting mostly in the centre before peeling out wide to cause havoc. He’s also played up top on his own, although his lack of aerial ability means this is infrequent, and he instead plays off the dynamic target man in Patrik Schick or Yussuf Poulsen, a role that Tammy Abraham could adopt alongside Werner.
THE Chelsea FIT
Werner’s positional and tactical versatility means that he gives Frank Lampard plenty of options to consider and experiment with in terms of the forward line.
Whilst it’s impossible to say with certainty where Lampard plans to utilise Werner’s incredible talent, the adaptability of his two new signings, Werner and Hakim Ziyech, provides the foil for a number of systematic possibilities.
Lampard may well take a leaf out of Nagelsmann’s book, and decide to use Werner as an inside forward, similar to the role that has been adopted by Sadio Mane at Liverpool.
This could mean that Abraham remains in the No. 9 position, and becomes the target man figure that Werner has thrived off during his time at Leipzig.
A 4-2-3-1 formation, with Tammy at No. 9, Werner coming inside off the left flank, Ziyech at number 10, and Pulisic or Hudson-Odoi on the right wing could prove to be a system that Lampard opts for, and that looks very promising for Blues fans.
Nagelsmann is resigned to losing his forward - it's Leipzig's policy to develop young talent and sell for a profit. But he was already preparing Werner for the future, adding: "He’s having many more touches of the ball than in previous years and that's another trait he’ll need if he wants to be one of the best in Europe.
"There are a lot of teams who sit deep and defend deep against you, and he needs that second way of being dangerous to opponents too, and he’s definitely developed that this year."
No matter what system is chosen next season, Chelsea have usurped Liverpool and signed one of the most talented attackers in world football right now, something that could well propel them to title challengers next season.