MARTIN SAMUEL: Get Werner a specialist coach and his luck may turn

MARTIN SAMUEL: Get Timo Werner a specialist coach – who can specifically teach him how to stay ONSIDE – and his luck may turn… whatever Chelsea have been doing for him has to change

  • Chelsea’s Timo Werner said he has never known a season like it for misfortune
  • But it’s not bad luck to miss – he just needs a specialist coach for his position
  • Ilkay Gundogan shouldn’t be overlooked for his role in Man City’s title triumph
  • If injury-ravaged Liverpool make the top four, it would be some achievement 

Ramon Artagaveytia, a Uruguayan national, was among just 65 passengers to escape the sinking of the ship America on December 24, 1871, in which 164 perished.

It scarred him for life. Relatives said he would wake in the middle of the night, screaming that there was a fire.

Even during the shortest of trips on water, he would wear a lifebelt and shake with fear.

Chelsea striker Timo Werner has endured a horrible time in front of goal since his arrival

Finally, overcoming his trauma and confident modern passenger liners were safer than those from the previous century, on April 10, 1912, Ramon embarked on his first major voyage. He boarded HMS Titanic. You could say that was bad luck.

Likewise, Jerome Moody. In 1985, the New Orleans Recreation Department Center held a party to mark its first summer season without a fatality in the public pool. There were 200 people in attendance, including 100 lifeguards.

When the party was over, Moody’s body was located in the deep end of the swimming pool, fully clothed. He had fallen in and drowned, unnoticed.

And that’s unlucky, too. Yet Timo Werner? Whatever he might think, he’s not unlucky.

This season he has got into 34 positions for Chelsea in which he might be expected to score, and has found the net on 10 occasions. That is what Graeme Souness meant when he spoke of Werner’s terrible numbers.

The striker says he has never known a season like it for misfortune. But it’s not bad luck to miss, it’s bad luck to be crushed by a cow falling through your corrugated iron roof (Joao Maria de Souza, Caratinga, Brazil).

But Werner’s not having luck like that. His trials are old-fashioned wastefulness and carelessness, faults that can be corrected with hard work and discipline.

He has not been run over by an emergency services vehicle having survived a plane crash (Ye Mengyuan, Asiana Airlines Flight 214, July 6, 2013).

Werner needs a coach. Not just a coach like Thomas Tuchel because, as good as he is, Tuchel has an entire squad to manage and shape. He needs a specialist coach, for his position, one on one. Specifically, he needs to be coached in how to stay onside.

And he must be able to do it, because Werner has scored 137 goals for club and country since making his debut for Stuttgart at 17. And they have offside in Germany, too.

Gary Lineker recently bemoaned that so few managers are former strikers and forwards are invariably told how to do their job by a coach with no experience of the pressures and demands of that specific role.

The £53million summer signing said he has never known a season like it for misfortune

He said that even Johan Cruyff at Barcelona could not tell him anything about the goalscorer’s position he did not know already.

There are exceptions, strikers who became great managers — Sir Alex Ferguson, notably — but of the 20 current Premier League bosses, there are 11 defenders, five midfielders, a goalkeeper and two strikers, plus Jurgen Klopp, who has a foot in two camps, starting off up front before playing most of his career at the back.

Even so, that’s not a big pool. Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, Ralph Hasenhuttl and half of Klopp, the only managers with personal knowledge of Werner’s position.

And specialist goalscoring coaches do exist. England had one, Allan Russell, at the 2018 World Cup. Maybe it would wound a few egos to bring in an individual to work one-on-one with Werner.

Yet how is it that he is continually caught offside — 41 times, the most of any player — and that he has scored just three goals when played through the middle this season? If goalkeeper is a specialist position, why not his, too?

There are old tricks to get a striker scoring. When Jason Roberts was having a rough time at Portsmouth, Jim Smith, Harry Redknapp’s assistant, suggested shooting practice without a goalkeeper to get his confidence up. He took Roberts, and Teddy Sheringham, so it didn’t look as if one player was being singled out and the pair had to finish into an empty net.

‘It was painful,’ Redknapp recalled. ‘Teddy was scoring easily but Jason — the ball went through his legs, off the top of his head, over the bar, wide of the post. I saw Jim after the session. “Thanks for that,” I said. “You’ve ruined him”.’

Thomas Tuchel desperately needs to find a way to get his German striker firing on all cylinders

Tuchel has tried the reverse psychology with Werner. When he attempted to stay out for extra training, the manager told him to go in, because he did not want him overthinking the role. That hasn’t exactly worked.

So Chelsea are in the market for a goalscorer when they should not be. Indeed, if there was any chance Tottenham would sell across London, they would be bidding for Harry Kane already.

Yet Roman Abramovich must have felt he made the smart move last summer, taking Werner when Liverpool’s interest waned. One of the reasons he then moved for Tuchel was the desire to make his German players succeed.

Yet Werner’s success, such as it is, comes through the sheer weight of chances Chelsea create, not his prowess at dispatching them.

He does not look a natural finisher. He looks an athlete, a sprinter, a hard worker, and these are fine attributes; but for a goalscorer they are the base. Whatever Chelsea have been doing has to change.

Every other striker at an elite Premier League club has a conversion rate of 45 per cent, minimum, when faced with an expected goalscoring opportunity; Werner’s is 29.4.

That’s not right. And it’s also not luck.

DON’T OVERLOOK ILKAY’S EXPLOITS

Hard to argue against Ruben Dias as the Footballer of the Year.

He has started 31 of Manchester City’s 37 Premier League games — as many as any outfield player — and his presence has addressed a defensive weakness, just as Virgil van Dijk’s did for Liverpool. 

The only counter-argument would be that in the period after the 1-1 draw with West Bromwich Albion that Pep Guardiola credits as transforming City’s season, Ilkay Gundogan scored 10 goals in as many league matches, including wins over Chelsea, Liverpool and Tottenham.

That was the platform for City’s title-winning campaign. They could not have done it without him, either.

Ilkay Gundogan’s role in Manchester City’s title exploits certainly shouldn’t be overlooked

MAKING RIVER PLAY PEREZ IN GOAL WAS A FARCE… BUT A WONDERFUL ONE

Enzo Perez could not keep a clean sheet for River Plate against Independiente Santa Fe of Colombia in the Copa Libertadores on Wednesday. He let in a scrambled shot from Kelvin Osorio in the 73rd minute, but it didn’t matter because the Argentine club won 2-1. And Perez is a midfielder.

Such a good one, in fact, that he made 26 appearances for Argentina — including a start in the 2014 World Cup final. Benfica coach Jorge Jesus referred to him as the ‘brain’ of the team that won back-to-back Portuguese league titles.

But Perez is 35 now, and would have missed this week’s match because of a muscle injury.

So when coronavirus swept through the River Plate squad affecting 20 players including all four registered goalkeepers — and CONMEBOL, South America’s federation, refused to let the club promote from its youth ranks — Perez became a battlefield promotion between the posts. River Plate fielded a starting XI and no substitutes.

Midfielder Enzo Perez played in goal for River Plate against Independiente Santa Fe

The footage shows, quite plainly, a man who has never performed in goal before. There are some outfield players who obviously enjoy a turn in training. If their moment comes in a proper match, they make saves, they want to show it off. That is not Perez.

When he stops a ball, no matter how slowly it is travelling, he clutches it tightly to his chest and falls on it for extra protection. He pats away a high, miscued clearance for a corner, rather than try to catch it. He concedes another corner diving to save a shot that was already two feet outside the near post.

Bouncing the ball to waste time — everything he does is at walking pace, because River Plate went 2-0 up very early — it rears up quicker than he expects and hits him on the chin.

And when he saves a mild long-range shot it is in the style of the schoolboy custodian, hands, knees, body, everything behind the ball, just in case.

Yet, rightly, he received the adulation of his team-mates at the end, and an award that translates as Best of the Match. With one game to play, River Plate top their group.

It is ridiculous that CONMEBOL allowed this to happen, but at the same time wonderful it did.

INJURY-RAVAGED REDS MAKING THE TOP FOUR WOULD BE A BIG DEAL

It is not lifting the Champions League or winning a Premier League title for the first time, but if Liverpool can finish in the top four, having lost the heart of their defence, their captain, their playmaker and been forced to reorganise the midfield for much of the season, it will still be a genuine achievement.

Take an equivalent tally of players from any other team and they would have struggled to make it. Even Manchester City.

FA OPENED DOOR TO DEMONSTRATIONS, IT CAN’T BE SHUT NOW

What if Tottenham had taken to the field flying the Israeli flag on Wednesday night, or their fans had chanted songs in support of the bombing in Gaza? It was never going to happen because that showy Yid Army shtick is not the same as being Jewish or taking an interest in complex disputes on faraway continents.

It is just something the fans do because the club and the Football Association have indulged them — and now they have to let Palestinian flags fly on football pitches for the same reason.

They couldn’t censure Hamza Choudhury and Wesley Fofana of Leicester or Paul Pogba and Amad Diallo of Manchester United for colourful gestures of public support, because what is happening in Palestine is politically sensitive.

Paul Pogba and Amad Diallo held up a Palestinian flag on the pitch at Old Trafford this week

Yet the fight for Catalan independence is apparently not, because Pep Guardiola was punished for his little ribbon endorsing it.

Palestinian flags were also displayed on the cars that cruised north London at the weekend, while the occupants shouted out of windows about raping Jewish women.

And while this is an extreme escalation from the simple expression of empathy for a people under siege, flags and banners can take on multiple meanings according to how they are flown or perceived.

Think of the connections the Cross of Saint George has to the England football team and the extreme right, or the way the battle flag of the Army of Northern Virginia, also known as the Confederate Flag, divides America. A poll last year found 41 per cent of the country felt it represented racism, 34 per cent saw heritage.

So congratulations to those who have contrived to bring the infernal politics of the West Bank to English football. Please enjoy the choices you have made.

Succeeding Roy Hodgson at Crystal Palace will not be easy. Hodgson never looked likely to win a trophy there, and only flirted briefly with European qualification, but he kept the club safe. Once he had righted the ship in his first campaign, it remained steady.

To progress, therefore, will require elements of risk. The last time that happened, Frank de Boer came in and lasted five games.

Still, Hodgson wouldn’t be leaving unless Palace didn’t aspire to be where West Ham and Everton are now.

To that end, it is a harsh blow for the new manager that Eberechi Eze is likely to be out until 2022 with an achilles injury. Palace will need all the creativity they can muster if they are to do more than tread water next season, and Eze would have been a significant part of their plans.

HARRY IS IN FOR A RUDE AWAKENING 

The definition of optimism is Harry Kane’s wish that his future be resolved in time for the European Championship: unless he is thinking of the one scheduled to take place in Germany in 2024, when his contract is due to end.

Equally, the idea he has some form of gentleman’s agreement with Daniel Levy.

The fact is Kane is leaving because Tottenham are at a low ebb and Levy knows all that has kept them from falling even lower is the presence of a world-class striker.

Harry Kane could be in for a rude awakening in his bid to leave Tottenham this summer

Without Kane, it is possible to envisage Tottenham as a team in the Premier League’s bottom half. So there is Levy’s dilemma. He desperately needs the money from Kane’s transfer to finance the rebuilding of Tottenham’s squad, but he also needs Kane to be the jewel in that crown.

If Kane expects this next stage in his career to take shape quickly, or in a gentlemanly fashion, he hasn’t been paying attention to the mounting crisis at his club.

‘Ultimately it is going to be down to me,’ he says. It isn’t. He signed a six-year contract three years ago. This is going to be a knife fight in a telephone box.




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