The effusive praise for Romelu Lukaku just kept coming from Thomas Tuchel during his post-match press conference. Understandably so given the Belgian proved the difference between Chelsea and Zenit on Tuesday night at Stamford Bridge.
“You don’t find many strikers of his quality and the guys who are there to score regularly are so, so important,” the Chelsea head coach enthused. “It gives the whole team a lot of belief that maybe one chance is enough for him to score.
So it’s not the only talent he brings, he brings belief and he takes the pressure off the shoulders of other guys around him. He has the personality not to be impatient or lose confidence. He does want he does at a very high level and we are very happy with us.”
There were very few doubts that Lukaku would be a success at Stamford Bridge. He was as close to a goalscoring guarantee as Chelsea could buy in the transfer market this summer. It’s why the club were willing to pay £97.5million to secure the services of the 28-year-old from Inter Milan.
Lukaku has struck four goals in his opening four matches after returning to his boyhood club. There was the opener against Arsenal; a brace at the weekend against Aston Villa; the winner against Zenit on Tuesday. The Belgium international has made it all look so simple, so effortless.
And that is in stark contrast to the man he has replaced in the Chelsea starting XI: Timo Werner. Signed from RB Leipzig in the summer of 2020 for £50million, the German arrived with the reputation as one of European football’s elite goalscorers. Unfortunately, that has been eroded during his time with the Blues.
There were goals last term – 12 in all competitions – but only four since the turn of the year. It’s rather damning that Lukaku has matched that total inside his first month back at Stamford Bridge.
Werner was given ample opportunity that others weren’t to play his way into goalscoring form last term. He made 24 appearances under Tuchel, racked up more than 1800 minutes of action. Still, there was no turnaround for the German, whose raw pace is an undoubted threat behind defences but simply no longer enough to keep him in the side.
It’s why as soon as Lukaku was available for selection, he came into the side. Werner started the UEFA Super Cup against Villarreal in Belfast and the Premier League opener against Crystal Palace but has featured for just nine minutes in the last four.
“I am sure we will find games where we play with both [Lukaku and Werner],” Tuchel said rather adamantly last week. “I think we did already play with double strikers and Timo and Romelu can be a good fit together.
Timo loves to play around a reference and Romelu is clearly our reference if we play double strikers. The most important thing is he finds his rhythm, finds his confidence, finds his joy.”
Werner had appeared to while on international duty. He netted in three consecutive games for Germany, albeit against Liechtenstein, Armenia, and Iceland. He’s not had that goalscoring momentum behind him for some time. Yet Tuchel opted to go with others options against Aston Villa and then Zenit.
Lukaku started both. Hakim Ziyech too. Kai Havertz and Mason Mount, meanwhile, each had a turn in the side. But Werner was restricted to late cameos. As harsh as it may be, the 25-year-old appears to be fifth in the pecking order, and that is with Christian Pulisic currently out due to injury.
As a result, it’s no real surprise a story emerged yesterday in German publication Sport Bild, via Sport Witness, linking Werner with a move next summer to Borussia Dortmund, who will be on the lookout for a replacement for Erling Haaland.
Before that point, though, there is almost a full season to play. And the challenge for Werner is to first force his way back into the side and to then stay there. That will not be easy and several aspects of his game will need to improve if he’s to become a regular starter ahead of the likes of Havertz, Mount, Pulisic, and Ziyech.
Werner will not give up. That much we know. Even at his lowest ebb last term, he still put in the work, still made countless off-the-ball runs. His effort couldn’t be questioned.
“I think the most important thing in football is to keep your mentality up, keep your head clean from outside,” he told Chelsea’s official website last month. “The media is getting bigger and bigger nowadays. Of course, when you play good you are the hero everywhere, but when you play badly it is a totally different story.
“You have to step away from that and concentrate on your football. It’s not always easy because you have media on your phone, media always around you which can bring something up you can see, but you have to be straight, in your own bubble, to think only about the football.
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