‘Be All You Can Be’ used to be the recruiting slogan of the US Army back in the 80s and 90s, and while Timo Werner has nothing whatsoever to do with that, he very much prescribes to that notion. And actually, he goes one better. He wants to be better than the best he can be.
“In Leipzig I was the best Timo I could be and I learned a lot from the manager. It was the right time to say: ‘OK, I want to try something new, out of Germany’.”
I mean, come on, can you love this guy any more already even though he’s yet to score his first (official) Chelsea goal?
Werner scored 95 goals in 159 appearances for RB Leipzig, including 34 in 45 last season, but there is a notion that he needs space to truly be effective. Even his previous coach, Julian Nagelsmann (defiantly, probably) hinted at such concerns after their game against Atlético Madrid during the restart of last season’s Europa League following the COVID-19 lockdown by which time Werner had left for Chelsea, but Timo himself doesn’t think this is actually a real concern.
While the Bundesliga is often stereotyped as a league where every team presses high and leaves acres of space behind the last defender, Werner says he has plenty of experience playing against the stereotypical Premier League-style deep defending.
“[Nagelsmann] gave me new ways to go when other teams stay deep and there is not so much space. He gave me a lot of things and a lot of different positions where I can improve myself.
“When I scored 28 goals in the Bundesliga, not every team pressed high and allowed me to make runs behind the defenders. Maybe 10 or 12 teams in the league played deep in their own half against Leipzig and I scored as well.”
In his Chelsea debut, Werner had plenty of opportunities to run behind Brighton’s high line, but on at least two occasions, his teammates had delayed the obvious pass to him until it was too late. With an extra week of practice, hopefully that won’t be an issue against Liverpool today.
“English football is very fast, faster than German football. And also a lot of different styles. A lot play with five at the back or three at the back. Some like us are four. A lot of teams press high like Brighton did against us, some defend deep. A lot of teams will stay deep but I think it will be about how we play football. We want to play like a French team, we want to keep the ball.”
Werner, like Olivier Giroud, target man extraordinaire, speaks with excellent tactical clarity and understanding. Both players can operate as lone strikers, but need very different type of service to be truly effective.
When it comes to Werner, as ready and willing as he might be to take on massed ranks of big, burly defenders — “massive”, as he put it after the first game — the best way to utilize him is to make use of his world class speed, a…