Misfiring Kai Havertz and Timo Werner symbolic of Chelsea's struggle for goals

Blues could become Champions League qualifiers and winners in a season when their star summer buys have found scoring a problem

Chelsea attacker Timo Werner has scored just six Premier League goals this season. Getty
Chelsea attacker Timo Werner has scored just six Premier League goals this season. Getty

It probably was not what Roman Abramovich envisaged when he authorised the signing of perhaps the two most coveted attacking talents to move last summer. But for the financial implications of the coronavirus crisis, Kai Havertz might have joined Real Madrid and Timo Werner Liverpool. Instead, Chelsea swooped for both.

And so, with one game of their Premier League campaign remaining, their top scorer is Jorginho. The penalty the holding midfielder nonchalantly rolled in against Leicester may prove the most important goal of Chelsea’s domestic campaign, ensuring their fate is in their hands on the final day. A place in next season’s Champions League beckons for this season’s finalists.

But all seven of the Italy international’s goals have been spot kicks. As he has twice missed from 12 yards, his lead over his teammates could have been more emphatic. He serves as an indictment of one of the most gifted forward lines around. But if Chelsea finish third, it will be a triumph of the collective.

Three players are on six goals, one on five, three more on four. Antonio Rudiger’s strike was his first of the season but it nonetheless felt typical that a defender delivered a key goal.

Yet if it is unusual that the champions have a top scorer, in Ilkay Gundogan, who only has 13 league goals, it is rarer still a team is third when no one even has eight. And that reflects, in particular, on the wasteful Werner.

The German gave his latest endearingly honest interview on Tuesday. He won a penalty, but also had two goals disallowed, one for handling when he could have headed in. “The first half, especially, was the picture of the whole season for me,” he said. “Every time, close, but in the end not really close. For me, the unluckiest season I ever had, and I will have, maybe. Worse ... there can’t be.”

Werner has gone from second in one chart, when outscored only by Robert Lewandowski in last season’s Bundesliga, to third in another – for big chances missed in this season’s Premier League – and top of a third: no one has underperformed their expected goals by more. Werner has six goals, when the metric suggests he ought to have 13.17.

Chelsea 2 Leicester 1: player ratings

It hardly helps that Havertz is one of the other statistical offenders. A player often deemed a generational talent has fewer goals than Kurt Zouma.

Injury meant Havertz did not face Leicester on Tuesday, continuing the run of misfortune that began when he contracted Covid in autumn, but, while Tuchel’s penchant for unpredictable selections may be an asset, it was damning when he was benched for the FA Cup final.

Havertz’s miss against Arsenal, a few minutes before Emile Smith Rowe scored the only goal of last week’s game, had the potential to be the most damaging of Arsenal’s season; Werner’s against Leeds in December, from under the crossbar, was surely the worst.

Havertz has four goals in 26 league games, Werner six in 34. Between them, they have two against a top-half team, even if the latter has also struck against Real Madrid, albeit from half a yard. And yet Werner’s pace and relentlessness and Havertz’s intelligent movement as a false nine have offered glimpses of why each attracted so much attention.

Werner was serenaded when fans returned, showing that his efforts appreciated. Tuchel has denied he was appointed to get the best from his compatriots, though Olivier Giroud and Tammy Abraham have been sidelined so they can be selected. But with two games to go, there is the paradoxical position that Chelsea could become Champions League qualifiers and winners in a year when their supposed coups have found ever newer ways not to score.

Published: May 20, 2021 06:59 AM


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