Chelsea hosted Real Madrid at Stamford Bridge on Wednesday with a long way to go to reach the Champions League final after failing to land the fatal blow when the 13-time European Champions were on the ropes in the first leg of the last week.
A 1-1 draw in the Spanish capital still gives the Blues the lead thanks to their away goal, but Thomas Tuchel’s men could have had a much more convincing advantage without the story of two strikers.
In a story from his first season at Chelsea, Timo Werner missed a glorious chance to put his side forward early as Madrid goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois’s stretched leg turned down his former club.
The lack even sparked criticism from the wife of Werner’s teammate Thiago Silva.
“Every team I go to there is a striker who keeps missing goals,” Isabelle da Silva said in a since-deleted Instagram post.
On the other end, after Christian Pulisic put Chelsea in front, Karim Benzema needed barely half a chance to bring Real back to a level playing field for his 28th goal of the season and become the fourth best goalscorer in the history of the Champions League.
These are the kinds of numbers Chelsea expected when they paid £ 47million ($ 65million) for Werner last June, at a time when other clubs, including Madrid, were scrambling to find the money just to pay their players as the coronavirus pandemic brought football to a halt across Europe.
Backed by Russian oligarch Roman Abramovich, Chelsea have been the club least deterred by the pandemic as they spent a total of £ 220million on the transfer market last summer.
That expense was rewarded with a return to the last four in the Champions League for the first time in seven years.
Yet none of the attacking trio of new signings, Werner, Kai Havertz and Hakim Ziyech, have always shown their best form.
Havertz and Ziyech started the first leg from the bench, but Tuchel has remained loyal to Werner since taking over in January despite his lack of goals.
The Germany international has only scored three times in his last 38 games for club and country, including one against fourth-ranked Morecambe in the FA Cup.
Tammy Abraham has been linked with a west London departure due to his limited opportunities under Tuchel, while Olivier Giroud, 34, is out of contract at the end of the season.
– ‘Do not panic’ –
The need for a prolific goalscorer to support the significant defensive improvement since Tuchel replaced Frank Lampard has even sparked rumors that Abramovich could be forced to spend big again.
Chelsea are among the clubs interested in Borussia Dortmund’s Erling Haaland.
But Tuchel remains convinced that Werner can prove to be the consistent finisher the club need.
“You won’t find a coach who doesn’t add a 20-goal forward to his team. I can’t get enough, if you can guarantee it, ”said Tuchel, when asked about interest in Haaland.
“But that’s what Chelsea bought, they bought Timo Werner and he’s a 20, 30-goal striker a year. Now he’s having a little trouble, for the first time in his career. “
“In any transfer, there are risks of adaptation, of a change of country, of a change of mentality. It takes time. It is not a puzzle where you identify a room and you go out and find the exact part, it is more than that and that is why there is no rush and no panic. “
There were some shining moments during the 25-year-old’s difficult first year in England.
His slick pass against Havertz for his second goal in a 2-0 win over Fulham on Saturday brought Werner’s total assists for the season to 10, to round out his 11 goals.
But he desperately needs a great time to calm his skeptics.
The chance to knock out Real Madrid in the Champions League semi-finals is the perfect step to prove his worth.
© 2021 AFP