LONDON – When Timo Werner gave up his chance for the quarter-finals of the Champions League last season, more than a few eyebrows were raised.
The 24-year-old had agreed to join Chelsea for £ 47.6million, but RB Leipzig still had a round of 16 in Europe. The way to a possible final was reduced to only two games due to the shortened knockout format in Lisbon as a result of the coronavirus pandemic. Leipzig sports director Markus Kroesche confirmed, however, that Werner had rejected the offer to stay in the Bundesliga squad, although he had not qualified for the round of 16 in Chelsea against Bayern Munich because he had got used to a new club and country early as possible.
“I don’t want to get involved in the decision,” said Blues boss Frank Lampard to media representatives after the game. “That was Timos. I didn’t really discuss this one with him personally, but what I do know is the fact that he was able to train with us early on was a big bonus for us. That he could come and adapt to life, Come and adjust to the training ground, how we train, relate to the players and feel how we train because we didn’t really have a preseason so we had the advantage that he had that time now, him and Hakim [Ziyech, who joined at a similar time from Ajax].
“We see with Timo that he is fit, quickly adapts to the rigors of the Premier League, trains our team and how we want to play. He was easy for me, easy to manage, he works well. I’ve walked him on the Platz because I felt he had the stamina to play for 90 minutes and I’m very happy with him. “
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Missing a Champions League quarter-final is no small gesture, but maybe Werner was convinced he didn’t have to wait long for another opportunity.
Werner said bullishly on the eve of the Wednesday game against Rennes: “We are here to win the Champions League.” While it’s too early to consider the blues’s serious rivals, a comfortable 3-0 win over Stade Rennes was a significant step forward in Group E with the German striker up front. From the left, more specifically, as he repeated his role from the flank against Burnley so Tammy Abraham could play through the middle.
It didn’t affect its effectiveness. Indeed, Werner’s versatility gives Chelsea exactly the kind of unpredictability that Lampard was hoping to achieve with the bulk of the club’s £ 220million summer spending.
Likewise, he wants a clinical finishing and a reckless mentality. Werner’s brace came from the penalty spot – he shot both times to the right of the goalkeeper, low with the first, high with the second, but both equally emphatic – and they were Chelsea’s only two shots on goal in the first half.
Werner won the first spot kick with a quick, concise game that quickly became a trademark. He was just too quick for Dalbert, who cut his ankle when he spun in the penalty area within 10 minutes, giving Chelsea the chance to take early control of the game in ways they never wanted to give up. It is the fourth time he has been fouled on penalty in eleven games.
The second penalty was severe and the subsequent second yellow card was even harder to take. After a lengthy VAR review when German referee Felix Zwayer consulted the touchline monitor, Dalbert was treated to an unnatural position in the box after being distracted. There were no fans at Stamford Bridge, but the lone member of Rennes’ tour group who booed the officials when they left at half time spoke for the rest of the French contingent.
This wasn’t just a night to showcase the signings, however, as two of Chelsea’s younger players came together to commemorate the contribution they had made over the previous season: five minutes into the second half, Reece James raced to the right and whipped a hit Excellent low cross, which Abraham hit hard for the first time near the post.
Perhaps the only surprise of the evening was that Werner, presumably a hat-trick miner, lasted the full 90 minutes, especially given the fact that Rennes posed little of a threat aside from hitting his former goalkeeper Edouard Mendy at a nice late Parade forced as Clement Grenier shot down. Mendy, a £ 20m summer acquisition from Rennes, extended his personal run to six consecutive goals. This was Chelsea’s fifth in a row.
Werner’s successful second conversion resulted in seven goals and three assists from eleven games. It is yet another sign of his growing influence that Lampard confirmed Werner von Jorginho’s takeover of penalty shoot-outs after the Italian international missed his last two free kicks against Liverpool and Krasnador.
“I spoke to Jorginho first because he had received brilliant penalties in his career and for us [scoring his first eight before missing the last two]and there are a few more missing lately that I thought it was time for a change, “said Lampard.” Jorg’s response was as professional as I would expect as he just wants us to meet her. He agreed to that. If Timo takes her as well as he does today, I’ll be happy. “
Strikers are most obsessed with numbers, and here are two more impressive numbers that underscore Werner’s pedigree at this level: first, he’s been directly involved in 12 goals in his last 14 Champions League games (nine goals and three assists), and second, since the beginning of last season, he has scored 41 goals in 56 games in all competitions. After Robert Lewandowski, Ciro Immobile, Cristiano Ronaldo and Romelu Lukaku, he is only the fifth player from the five best leagues in Europe to have scored 40 goals.
Werner quickly established himself as a great force. More nights like this and Chelsea will feel the same way.