Chelsea have found it difficult to get their big-money signings on the scoresheet since their arrival in 2020 – but Hansi Flick’s methods could help Thomas Tuchel find some inspiration
The head coach has changed the course of the Blues’ trajectory since taking over in January following the sacking of Frank Lampard. Under his guidance, they won their second Champions League — and first since 2012 — against all expectations.
He also steered Chelsea towards the top four on the final day of the season, with the club languishing in ninth place when he took over.
Tuchel has also found a way to get players who were frozen out under Lampard back into form. Andreas Christensen and Antonio Rudiger have been nothing short of superb at the back in the three-man defence.
Rudiger, in particular, has been widely recognised as one of the world’s most-in form defenders having been invited back in from the cold by Tuchel.
Likewise, the fact that Jorginho has been nominated for the Ballon d’Or shows just how far the Italy International has come. A year ago, he was struggling to dislodge Billy Gilmour in the side.
But try as he might, there is still no viable solution to helping Werner put his goal troubles behind him — and Havertz is slowly creeping into the same territory.
The 25-year-old scored a crucial goal for the Blues before the international break in the 3-1 win over Southampton, but on the whole it was a frustrating afternoon for the Germany international.
He had seen his strike controversially chalked off for a foul in the build-up, which was entirely separate from his finish. Then, he missed a one-on-one when put through on goal against Alex McCarthy.
Still, he got his goal and the relief on his face was palpable. After all, it was only his third goal in his last 33 Premier League appearances.
Instead of lavishing praise on his striker, Tuchel sought to extract more goals from Werner and urged the forward to continue to work hard to end his goal drought.
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“It was a fantastic goal and he was there in the right position, which he needs to be as a striker,” Tuchel said.
“We have the feeling that every time he scores there is some VAR decision going on to take it away from him and very narrow decisions.
“I remember one against Liverpool that was super close but he has to keep on going.
“He still can improve his game but we are happy and relieved that he scored in the late minutes of this game because it was a very important goal for us to secure the win and he was where he needed to be.”
While the idea that Werner has to be more clinical is absolutely true, it was clear from his words that Tuchel is yet to master the art of man-management. The 47-year-old is not the most affectionate coach; he puts together a detailed gameplan and trusts that his players will see it through.
But maybe what Werner needs isn’t tough love, but confidence. His compatriot and Germany coach Flick could show him how it is done, with Werner making a not-so-subtle attempt to tell his club boss how he likes to be managed.
“When the coach relies on you, it helps every player,” he said.
“I need this trust from the outside; he gives me that one hundred per cent. I try to repay that. That has worked well in four out of five games.”
Flick’s work in encouraging Werner has paid dividends, with the striker netting a double in the 4-0 win over North Macedonia on Monday. Havertz also found the net, having started on the left wing and Werner as the central striker.
Chelsea legend Frank Leboeuf agrees that Werner’s troubles are linked to his lack of confidence and the goals will return when he is trusted by his coach.
“Timo Werner started well when he first signed for Chelsea and he was scoring goals but suddenly he lost his confidence,” he told Ladbrokes.
“As a striker you should be scoring goals and not thinking about it, you should just be doing it and not worrying about if you miss the shot or where the goalkeeper is going to go.
“But if you have confidence you don’t wonder because you’re already sure, so you go for it and that’s exactly what he’s lacking right now.
“I feel pretty sad for him, he’s coming back a little bit and scoring a couple of goals but it’s going to be hard for him to fight Lukaku.
“Werner showed his talent when he was in Germany and you cannot lose it, but he needs to find it again – it’s like riding a bicycle as you never forget.
“I want to give him more time as we’ve seen so many players struggling for two years and then suddenly flying, so I hope he’s going to do that otherwise he’s going to be a failure.”
There is a problem with Havertz too. Not counting his goal from a corner in the 1-1 draw with Liverpool in August, he is yet to find the net from open play this season.
He looked to have been thriving in the central striker role when Chelsea beat Manchester City in the Champions League final, bursting through the middle to nonchalantly beat Ederson and score the winning goal.
But since the arrival of £97.5m signing Romelu Lukaku, the 22-year-old has been disappointing and has struggled to influence games like he did last season.
Four goals and three assists in his first season hardly set the world alight, although exceptions could be made due to his tender age and untimely coronavirus diagnosis in December. But there can be no excuses now that the attacker is up to speed with the demands of the Premier League.
It is fair to say Tuchel is yet to find the position from where he can be most dangerous whilst Lukaku is in the side. Even as an ‘inside No.10’, he has struggled to impact games and Tuchel is yet to properly trial the pair in a 3-5-2 setup.
The fact he has scored as many goals for Germany in 2021 as he has for Chelsea shows how Flick’s systems are helping the young pair excel. His attacking 4-2-3-1 setup reduces the burden on the attackers with more options available to pass to, with attacking support from the full-backs, wingers and midfield.
He has only started a game once with Werner this season too, with one of Havertz or Werner usually making way for Mason Mount in attack. But their form for Germany suggests Tuchel should be open to letting them combine more often, having only started the pair once together this season — in the UEFA Super Cup against Villarreal.
For now, their places in the side appear to be safe while Hakim Ziyech and Callum Hudson-Odoi are similarly ineffectual and Christian Pulisic remains sidelined.
But Havertz and Werner would like nothing more to start contributing more goals to the Chelsea cause, just as they have done for their country. For Tuchel to get them firing on all cylinders, tapping into Flick’s tactical plans could provide the solution.