Our head coach talks about his striker on his return from international duty and also about Chelsea’s improving defence ahead of the latest test against Newcastle today…
Timo Werner may have been the one Chelsea player to feature in Germany’s 6-0 loss to Spain midweek which raised many an eyebrow across the globe and knocked them out of the UEFA Nations League competition, but his club manager Frank Lampard recalls suffering major England disappointments during his career while keeping winning at Chelsea. He believes the summer-signed striker has the character and talent to do similar.
Before Wednesday’s big setback for his nation, Werner had scored five goals in four games for Chelsea and followed that up with two for Germany last weekend in a win over Ukraine.
‘So there was a positive to that,’ points out Lampard as he considers all the international fixtures, before adding, ‘and then Timo was part of a performance that was really negative. I watched most of that game and I think there would certainly be no fingers pointed individually at Timo, it is a collective issue.
‘I have been part of that in my playing career, I am very aware of it, but he shouldn’t need in my opinion much picking up because he is coming back to a place where he is in really good form and really settling in.
‘I have been happy with his form so far, and we have seen lots of moments of what we brought him to the club for, which is his goalscoring prowess but also his explosive speed. It was something I felt we were lacking last year at times and he brought that. I only see more to come from him because of his personality, because of his talent, and because now we are getting time to work with him and he is getting time to make relationships with his team-mates.’
For a player of Werner’s profile, a major part of his game is making runs off the shoulder of a defender. Therefore his colleagues need to perfect the timing and direction of their passes to make the most of those runs.
‘That is something we have been in the process of and more recently it has been evident that is improving,’ says Lampard, ‘and we must keep working on that because I have absolute faith in Timo because I think he is a fantastic player who has had a really good start. I look forward to seeing more of it.’
There has also been plenty of evidence that training ground efforts on the other part of the team’s play, the defensive aspect, is paying off with just one goal conceded in six games before the international break.
‘I am pleased and there are not a million things we have changed in our work,’ explains the head coach. ‘We have worked on our defensive structure and that side of our game and we will continue to work on it. You are always trying to develop and find ways to improve and it should always be a mixture of praise and criticism, if there needs to be like at times last year.
‘It is not just the personnel we have brought in [during the close season]. Thiago has been very good for us, Edouard Mendy has been fantastic for us up to this point and Ben Chilwell similarly, but then you are talking about a player like Kurt Zouma as well, whose levels at this point this season are great.
Rudiger comes in and plays very well in the Champions League. We will need all the players, but the players, by working hard as they do, by performing as well as they can, that in itself can hopefully bring us the confidence that we can continue.
‘But it is definitely a work in progress. I’d hate to be so happy with it after eight games of the season. It is something we need to do over a consistent period of time.’
While talking about Zouma and the important part he has played in the defending this season, and at the other end of the pitch where he has contributed three goals, Lampard is aware of a statistic that shows the 26-year-old as winning 26 of his 27 aerial duels this season, the best ratio by anyone in the top 10 European Leagues. It is ability that may be especially crucial today against a Newcastle side which could feature Andy Carroll.
‘I am not surprised by it but it is a fantastic stat,’ says Lampard. ‘The level he [Zouma] is at, and he has to sustain it, he will be very important and he has been important for us this season at both ends of the pitch.
‘It is something we looked at in the off-season, we could have been better at times last season, particularly in defending our own box, and this is the standard we need to keep. There are reasons why we have been conceding less goals and that is a factor in it, and Kurt has been a big part of that, but every centre-back and every player in our team has to be switched on to the aerial threat from teams that have individuals that can be dangerous for you in games.’