When the Timo Werner transfer links to Chelsea first emerged in July, everyone implausibly presumed that he is a left-winger. Perhaps an opinion they gripped to shield Cobham-made Tammy Abraham’s position from danger OR misunderstanding Naggelsman tactics. The entire Blue was anxious to watch him replicate his RB Leipzig’s role; possibly except me.
I know Werner can truly shine in that position, or rather he has. He is fairly good at dribbling with approving speed to burst down the wing. In support of the general belief, his heatmap last season at the Bundesliga shows he spent most of his playing time on the flank. But there is a difference between his left-wing role at Leipzig and the one at Chelsea.
Before dissecting the big difference, I will suggest the Attacking Width as a likely factor. His positional distance between the wing and the opposition box at Leipzig is thinner to that of Chelsea. Logically, it’s easier to net 30 goals when closer to the goal than when hugging the sideline.
The inability to get him closer to the goal lies in our system. Werner’s most outstanding quality is his speed, hence to succeed this attribute must be complemented.
Unfortunately we don’t do that, I believe it’s a myth that we are a fast-paced direct attacking team. That term defines Naggelsman’s RB Leipzig more than us. Apparently, we are a patient possession team, who stall to unlock opposition with decisive passes. During the course, we widen the final third, funnel wingers closer to the touchline and repeatedly pass back to the Left-back.
His robotic back-passes to the Left-back was due to the required attribute of the position: Creativity; what he doesn’t have – or what he’s not best at. RB Leipzig play is fast counterattacking, and when they are in possession – they distribute the ball with high tempo to open up spaces their quick attackers can run into.
In football, there are fast and slow-paced attackers. Some players’ quality thrives in utilizing space as quick as they can, while others prefer a slow decisive game. Luis Suarez, a big epitome of a fast-paced striker, was outstanding in the Liverpool counterattacking system. Also thrived in a Luis Enrique quick transition attacking play; a tactic that prioritized releasing the front three Messi-Suarez-Neymar on counter early than the Barcelona game permits. Post the era, Suarez struggled to perform when the game returned to the old slow passing play.
Werner’s situation is similar to Suarez in MSN aftermath. I compare his left-wing role at Leipzig to Mo Salah at Liverpool. Although Salah is primarily a winger, the high tempo of their game creates space in central areas he runs into. His transformation at Liverpool isn’t a coincidence, he had struggled at Chelsea; Roma. One could say only Liverpool of these teams prioritizes his biggest attribute.
Werner’s biggest attribute must also be complemented. He is obviously a fast-paced player, both with the German National team and RB Leipzig. The solution to this is either use him as a striker (where he has forward spaces to run into) or speed up, and be more direct with our passing. His ridiculous speed is too big to waste. You can’t deny a runner the space to run, and yet expect him to do well.