Timo Werner is “in a good way” ahead of Chelsea’s EFL Cup tie against Aston Villa after taking “a big step forward” at Tottenham, Thomas Tuchel says.
Germany international Werner endured a difficult first season in England, although head coach Tuchel only arrived halfway through the campaign.
The former RB Leipzig forward was a regular, playing in 52 matches and making 44 starts across all competitions, as Chelsea won the Champions League.
But Werner’s form in front of goal was repeatedly called into question as he hit the net just 12 times from 118 shots worth a combined 21.1 expected goals.
Converting just 10.2 per cent of his chances and scoring once every 319 minutes, this profligacy led to the Blues splashing out a club-record fee on Romelu Lukaku.
The arrival of Lukaku has restricted Werner to only two starts this term, although he did get his first assist of the season in Sunday’s 3-0 win at Tottenham having come off the bench to partner the Belgium striker.
The wait for a first goal in 2021-22 goes on, but Werner is set to get an opportunity against Villa in the third round of the EFL Cup and has Tuchel’s backing.
“He can play with Romelu, that is sure,” Tuchel told a news conference. “He did very well in Tottenham, the last 25 minutes, 30 minutes of the match, that gave us a clear impression of how dangerous these two can also be together.
“There was some disappointment to brush off his shoulders from the Euros during the summer and from the first games.
“I think he was not happy with the performances in the beginning, and we were not absolutely happy, because we know that he can be much more dangerous and much more of an attacking threat than he was.
“But the stuff that you don’t see… I see him in the last training sessions more relaxed, more fluid in his movements, with more confidence, and that’s why we put him on earlier against Tottenham.
“We saw his development. There are clear signs he is in a good way, and I hope he can show and prove it tomorrow.”
Werner had only one attempt of his own against Spurs, which Hugo Lloris saved, although he should have had another, played in by Lukaku but taking too long to shoot and allowing Emerson Royal to recover.
Lukaku wore a pained expression as the chance went begging, but Tuchel again took the positives from that incident.
“It shows also how Romelu is. It shows that he knows how a striker feels that lacks goals,” he said.
“For me, the most important was that Timo was in better positions. We had him again in dangerous positions around Romelu, and he was not too far out on the pitch, he was actually in and around the box.
“He had his chances in the box, and later he had the assist, which was well done also within the box.
“This is more important, and more important is how he trains, not only in pure quality of training but also in the attitude. At the moment, he moves more free in his movements and his decision-making is with more confidence.
“Sometimes it needs time, and sometimes you don’t have one particular reason why things look a bit more easy. Timo is in this moment, and hopefully he also can push himself now and keep this momentum going.
“Everybody is happy if he can show his skills in front of goal and can be dangerous, because this is what we want and this is why he’s here: to be dangerous, to score goals, of course, and also to assist, to create more open spaces with aggressive runs.
“This was a big step forward in the last game against Tottenham.”
Tuchel also suggested Ruben Loftus-Cheek and Saul Niguez could feature at home to Villa, as he gives “important minutes” to players who need them, but Edouard Mendy remains out.
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