“Maybe it is our fault,” Thomas Tuchel replied when asked about Timo Werner’s struggles at Chelsea in February. “We have a lot of possession and we push opponent teams very, very deep in their half so spaces are not too big.
“The biggest strength of Timo is to attack the space behind the last line so it is maybe also our fault in the dominant game that we play at the moment, it is very natural that the spaces are closed by the opponents.”
Tuchel’s analysis was bang on. When there is space behind a defence, Werner is a huge threat. Few players can match the German forward’s raw speed, few defenders can catch the 25-year-old if he breaks free.
The problem at Chelsea is there are only a handful of occasions during a season in which the Blues face an opponent that operates with a high line. The majority drop deep in an effort to stay compact, either by design or because they are forced by Tuchel’s side.
That will not be the case this weekend. Chelsea make the long trip to Merseyside on Saturday to take on Jurgen Klopp’s Liverpool, who extensively scouted Werner before he moved to Stamford Bridge.
The Reds have a clear tactical approach under Klopp, one based around squeezing up the pitch and reclaiming possession as close to their opponent’s goal as possible.
Over the last three seasons, it’s resulted in Liverpool winning the Champions League and Premier League.
Understandably, Klopp does not deviate from his ideals. He didn’t last term despite Liverpool losing their senior centre-backs – Virgil van Dijk, Joe Gomez and Joel Matip – to injury. And won’t for Chelsea this weekend, either.
Yet that is why Werner must start at Anfield.
The German forward, if he is able to remain onside, can consistently expose Liverpool’s high defensive line again at Anfield. After all, he did it when the two sides faced off in February.
Below is a screenshot from Chelsea’s 1-0 win, which came courtesy of an excellent strike from Mason Mount. In the Blues midfield, Jorginho has time to look up and pick out a pass. Werner is on the shoulder of the final defender and there is almost half of the pitch for him to run into.
Jorginho’s pass is on the money. It drew Alisson out of his goal but enabled Werner to beat the Liverpool goalkeeper to the ball and finish. Unfortunately for Chelsea, VAR decided the forward’s armpit was offside in the build-up and the goal was chalked off.
That move was all very easy for Tuchel’s side. It won’t be so simple this weekend. Liverpool’s confidence was on the floor when Chelsea last visited Anfield and, as mentioned earlier, they were without van Dijk, Matip and Gomez. That trio have all now returned.
However, if Chelsea are able to engineer time for one of their wing-backs, midfielders, or number tens, then Werner can still cause Liverpool’s backline a problem.
The below screenshot is from the Reds’ opening game of the season, a comfortable victory over newly-promoted Norwich City. Here, Todd Cantwell was given time to assess his options before he clipped a pass behind van Dijk.
Teemu Pukki, not a forward known for his blistering pace, was able to easily get to the ball first. He broke into the Liverpool box and had a clear shot at goal. His effort was straight at Alisson, though, who pushed the effort away from a corner.
It’s far from unthinkable that a similar attack plays out this weekend. Whether Werner would show greater composure than Pukki is also up for debate.
The former RB Leipzig star didn’t feature against Arsenal on Sunday – the front three was Romelu Lukaku, Kai Havertz and Mason Mount – but did start the opening game of the Premier League campaign against Crystal Palace. Werner’s display was erratic.
On more than one occasion, he ran the ball out of play. There was also a snapshot on goal after being played behind the Palace defence that finished closer to the corner flag.
The decision Tuchel has to make is whether Werner’s threat outweighs his inconsistencies in the final third. There are going to be several occasions when that may not be the case this season. Saturday is not one of those, however.
Source by Football London