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After over a year of speculation that Liverpool would be his destination, Timo Werner is seemingly heading for Chelsea.
So what does this mean for Chelsea? And what does it mean for Liverpool? We discussed the move at length on the Totally Football Show this week, starting with a quick run-down of how Chelsea were able to usurp Liverpool from Rafa Honigstein.
“Chelsea have been very opportunistic and very quick to use some of the financial power they had because of the [transfer] ban and the money they had saved up. They couldn’t get a deal done in January so they basically had two windows worth of money available.
“They were one of the very few clubs in elite football who were in a position to push a button, and say “you know what, here’s your €55million. It’s a release clause, so they don’t have to negotiate: I don’t think it’s done yet but they have an agreement with the player so triggering the release clause is really just a formality at this stage.
“For Liverpool, I think that the fact there is no AfCON, their need to replenish their front three or make up for the absence of Mane or Salah, meant that Werner was just less of a priority, even at a relatively reasonable £50million. They were just not in a position to sanction that sort of outlay, and I think that because the release clause was only in place until mid-June meant Chelsea were able to do it “without a chain” as it were, made it easier for them to complete the deal.”
Could this be a game-changer for Chelsea, in terms of turning them into title contenders.
“It is potentially,” said Matt Davies-Adams, “and not just that they’ve signed one of the most promising strikers in Europe of this season, but that they’ve been in the position to get him. Whether it’s ahead of Liverpool or that Liverpool pulled out of the deal, it’s impressive that Chelsea have been able to do this deal at a time where they are in the top four but only just about, and with an inexperienced manager.
“It’s interesting that we’re told that, as with Hakim Ziyech, we’re told that Frank Lampard played a big part in discussions to convince Werner to come in. Part of that was “I’m going to be here for a few years and I want you to play for me”, which is not a position previous managers have been able to say with much confidence. We’ll see if history proves that to be accurate.
“All rumours seem to point to Ben Chilwell is next, which is another relatively stellar signing, and the aim will be in the next three years to get Chelsea back to challenging for Premier League titles rather than just the top four.”
What does the move mean for Chelsea’s existing strikers? After all, their aim over the last season has been to focus on young players.
Daniel Storey said: “It’s interesting that Lampard was appointed on this mandate of bringing through academy players, like Tammy Abraham, but…if you can get a striker who is better than your current No.9, Lampard isn’t going to just sing from this same hymn sheet that “I’m going to play the kids whatever”. If that’s the difference between Chelsea finishing second, third, fourth or fifth, he has to go with it.
“It will make Abraham worried, because it’s not like they don’t have options. Ziyech can play pretty much anywhere, Christian Pulisic only arrived last summer – it looks like Pedro and/or Willian will leave, but they still have a heck of a lot of options, with Mason Mount servicing the forward line from behind. There are certainly less excuses for Lampard.”
Matt Davies-Adams chipped in with an important caveat on Abraham: “Chelsea and Abraham have been in a stand-off over a new contract for pretty much the entirety of this season. Callum Hudson-Odoi, Fikayo Tomori and some of the other academy graduates have signed new deals over the course of this season, Abraham has been holding out. His deal expires in the summer of 2022, so to an extent it’s Chelsea looking to protect themselves against him deciding that he doesn’t want to stay anyway.”
For Chelsea, while you wonder exactly where Werner – not a natural No.9 – will fit into a side that already has lots of wide options, he is a potentially game-changing and clinching player, as Duncan Alexander pointed out.
“My colleagues in Germany put together quite an interesting table, which was xG created by players dribbling past opponents – so basically xG you’ve created yourself. Werner was way ahead of any other player in Europe.
“That’s quite key for Chelsea, because there were a lot of games this season where they struggled to break teams down, particularly away from home, and he’s a player who can create something from nothing.”
Finally, what of Liverpool?
“They’re in a really interesting position,” said Daniel Storey. “By all accounts, one of the reasons Werner changed his mind was that Klopp couldn’t guarantee him a starting position every week. If you look at the age of their strikers, in comparison with other clubs – Manchester United have Martial and Rashford, Chelsea with what they have now, they are getting on a bit in Premier League terms. They’re not over the hill by any means, but it will be interesting to see how that dynamic changes when it does change.
“There isn’t a more settled front three in European football at the moment, but when that change has to come, it will be interesting to see which of the three is the fall guy.”
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