Time waits for no man. Even Jurgen Klopp.
The Liverpool manager is one of the most charismatic and player-orientated coaches in the world. He is one of the managers who players genuinely dream of playing for. In the same way people dream of being tactically developed by Pep Guardiola, they dream of being motivated and hugged by Klopp, there’s no denying that.
However the Klopp effect can only turn a head for so long; eventually time will force a decision.
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And last summer, time forced Timo Werner to join Frank Lampard’s Chelsea, rather than Klopp’s Liverpool. Consider this tweet from transfer guru Fabrizio Romano at the end of May.
It tells you everything that you need to know. 1) Timo Werner wanted to join Liverpool and had spoken to the club. 2) He would only join another club if Liverpool pulled out.
The same day Romano published a story for the Guardian saying Klopp was persuading the Liverpool hierarchy that Werner would be the perfect striker for his system. Mohamed Salah and Sadio Mane hit 19 and 18 Premier League goals respectively in the 2019-20 season but Roberto Firmino forebode his drop this season by failing to reach double digits. Liverpool told RB Leipzig they wanted a little more time to make their decision before Werner’s €52.7 million release clause expired on June 15.
The rest is history, Liverpool hesitated and eventually pulled out, citing the impact of the coronavirus pandemic. Chelsea swooped, activating the release clause and brought Werner to Stamford Bridge, to much fan-fare.
(Side note - there’s various reporting as to the fee due to the fluctuation of the pound’s value against the Euro and confusion over the eventual expiration date of the Werner release clause.)
Fast-forward to now and it’s fair to safe both parties are probably experiencing more than a small element of regret. Following last night’s disastrous 1-0 defeat at home to Burnley, Liverpool are fourth in the Premier League. The champions are six points behind leaders Manchester United and they are only one point ahead of Tottenham Hotspur in fifth and local rivals Everton in sixth. The two teams chasing Liverpool have one and two games in hand respectively.
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Chelsea are even further back, five off the Reds and 11 behind United. Since Christmas, Liverpool have failed to score in four of their five Premier League games. Chelsea have scored in four of their five matches over the same period but never more than once, resulting in just one win (over 10-man Fulham) and three defeats. Werner has scored just four Premier League goals all season (despite being an ever-present) and hasn’t scored in the league since early November.
Last night, for what feels like the first time, Klopp visibly spoke of his frustration about the transfer situation at Liverpool.
“These decisions are not my decisions,” Klopp said of any potential January signings.
Image credit: Getty Images
“I cannot decide if we do something in the market or not.”
Klopp’s frustration is visible and Liverpool fans would be right to question their club about the Werner decision when they decided to splash on Thiago Alcantara and Diogo Jota later on in the window. Both have been fine signings but both have missed time due to injury and forward Jota has only scored twice since his purple patch at the end of October/start of November.
Jota is nine months younger than Werner, with less of the pedigree, particularly as a central striker, so couldn’t Liverpool have found the money for the Germany international by moving a couple of other pieces about? Last year we were all talking about how much of a no-brainer Werner was for Liverpool and all of those arguments hold true.
Werner is a striker who is used to playing in a high-intensity system. He is best deployed centrally but can occasionally shift out wide. Liverpool as a team were crying out for a player like Werner. A central goal threat who could take some of the pressure off Salah and Mane. In turn that pair would be able to cover for Werner when he, inevitably given his history, went through a run without scoring. He was a streaky player in Germany so it should be no surprise he’s doing the same in England, and Liverpool’s star duo could have helped when that happened. It’s not as if Werner is a selfish player either: he had 15 assists over his last two Bundesliga seasons with Leipzig, that’s one more than Firmino over the same time frame.
FC Chelsea | Timo Werner
Image credit: Getty Images
Instead Werner joined a Chelsea team who had a central striker who notched 15 Premier League goals the season just gone. Of course there’s an argument to be made that Chelsea needed another source of goals, but they signed a player who is best deployed centrally, and then played him wide because Abraham also has to play centrally. Liverpool, Manchester City, Manchester United, Leicester City and Tottenham Hotspur all function because they have wide players or midfielders who score goals to complement their central striker. Chelsea signed another central striker. Yes the Kai Havertz signing to go along with Mason Mount and Christian Pulisic was supposed to provide that, but why sign Werner? Surely going after another wide forward or perhaps a central midfielder was a better use of funds?
The concept of flops is a bit of a misnomer, these are all exceptionally gifted footballers. The concept of fit seems like a far better angle to explore. Liverpool and Werner looked the perfect fit on the outside and they still do now, but instead Chelsea shoehorned Werner into a team as they desperately tried to jump ahead of their rivals thanks to the pockets of Roman Abramovich. Liverpool showed the value of signing a player for a purpose rather than for the sake of it, they just ended up second-guessing themselves with Werner, and it could come back to bite them.
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