Timo Werner falls victim to Frank Lampard’s tactical rigidity

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There is a bitter sense of déja vu at Stamford Bridge this Christmas, so palpable it can almost be savored in the cold air of West London.

Once again, Chelsea are in the midst of an ill-timed festive drop in their form, and once again, perhaps more worryingly, a marquee signing to lead the attack is struggling to deliver.

Three defeats in four and 11 games without leaving a mark on Timo Werner’s minutes. Time to get together and band together around the £ 47.5 million man, and not one for a little scapegoat, right? Right ?!

“Timo was not giving us enough with or without the ball. Some of that we have to give him time. I keep saying the same thing because it is a different league, but we have to get there fast.”

Lampard on Werner after Arsenal defeat

Such a scathing assessment of a player’s match after another damaging loss to Arsenal would lead any fan to believe that Chelsea’s poor form and Werner’s struggles are mutually exclusive, which is simply not the case.

To be clear, Werner’s performance in the first half against Arsenal was, objectively, terrible. But a repellent first touch, no shots on target and a 57% pass-completion rate speak of a sharp decline in confidence, something Lampard’s words won’t remedy.

timo werner, Kieran Tierney
Werner fought at the Emirates | Chloe Knott – Danehouse / Getty Images

My esteemed colleague Robbie Copeland argued that it would be reductive to lay the blame entirely on Lampard’s deployment of Werner when the 24-year-old received 90min ‘s feared ‘what’s happening friend treatment last week.

But while we can’t say for sure, it seems impossible that this narrative would have developed if the German had consistently played down the middle this season, rather than being on the left wing. Adapting to the Premier League is quite difficult, much less doing it out of position.

It’s a mistake to think that Werner is just as adept at hugging the touchline as he is at the center, where he scored 30 goals and created 13 more last season. RB Leipzig’s system meant that he could operate more like a left forward, drifting to face Patrik Schick or Yussuf Poulsen and getting into goal positions, while Julian Nagelsmann’s winger system often negated the need to defend. .

Anyone who has played soccer at any level will know that playing on the wing is very different from playing as a lone striker, with space limited by the confines of the field and the requirement to step back and help his full back.

It’s an energy-sapping role, and while Werner had played more minutes than he has hitherto for the Blues at the same point last season, this is, of course, his first taste of the chaotic holiday schedule in England. A year ago he would have filled his face with stollen with his feet up.

Nor is it that he is the only Chelsea player who has problems. Inevitably, when the brilliant new leader of the Blues is going through a difficult time, like Mateja Kežman, Andriy Shevchenko, Fernando Torres, Álvaro Morata, Radamel Falcao and Gonzalo Higuaín in recent years, they take a lot of pressure. Without being too granular, there are only a handful of Chelsea players who can be satisfied with their season’s work thus far.

If you are winning, it is much easier to divert the spotlight. Take Sadio Mané for example; possibly the most dangerous attacker in the Premier League, the inescapable Senegal international was gone eight league games without a goal before his goal in the 7-0 destruction of Crystal Palace before Christmas.

Frank Lampard and Andreas Christensen
Frank Lampard on tactic with Andreas Christensen | Richard Heathcote / Getty Images

It feels like Werner is a victim of his coach’s rigid tactics, a stark contrast to the fluid formations and attacking rotation he was used to in eastern Germany. While Werner thrives on the defender’s shoulder with the ball coming to him centrally (no wonder his best performance to date has been as a center forward against Southampton), Chelsea have unmistakably become a cross-side, leading the Premier League charts with 343 already included this season.

Since the midfield lacks creativity, all attacks seem to be geared towards deflecting the ball throughout the game in the hope that a quality delivery might provide a goal. It’s literally a hit-and-miss approach, and one that only really benefits Olivier Giroud, with an inexplicably average 6’2 Tammy Abraham in the air.

While there is no question that Giroud in shape deserves a starting spot today, his age dictates that he cannot start every game when they are so strong and fast, while his and Abraham’s spotty scoring is a source of frustration. In herself. Lampard must find an effective alternative to his 4-3-3-get-ball-wide-cross-hope-goal tactics.

Olivier Giroud, Ben Chilwell
Olivier Giroud celebrates a new header against Aston Villa | Richard Heathcote / Getty Images

Timo Werner provides that alternative, with his mere presence centrally likely to encourage a more direct playstyle through the medium, in turn fueling the creative talents of Mason Mount and, in particular, Kai Havertz, who will become more than just Glorified glasses to turn the ball open, knowing they are catering to a striker who has the pace to go through balls and run behind.

A 4-3-3 with Havertz as attacking midfielder, Hakim Ziyech wide to the right (when he fits), Christian Pulisic to the left and Werner directly through the middle. surely provide the goods (right? !!!).

Demanding fans will recognize that Lampard is limited as a manager, but with Chelsea scrambling for ideas and results, there is no better time to show a willingness to try something different. It’s an adjustment that could solve Werner and Chelsea’s holiday dilemmas and could even get others in shape.

For more than Krishan davis, follow him on Twitter!

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