Timo Werner, Chelsea and Numbers That Lie


According to Gracenote’s analysis, his chances are not only rarer, but also of lower quality. At the same time, he has noticed a slight increase in the chances he creates: one support every 331 minutes in England versus one support every 340 minutes in the Bundesliga.

Of course, none of this is a smoking weapon, a single shocking statistic that proves in one fell swoop that Timo Werner was the signature of the season. They don’t contradict the notion that he’s been stripped of his trust – although it may reappear under Chelsea’s new coach Thomas Tuchel – or that his first few months in England were frustrating and stressful.

The numbers don’t tell the full story, but they are a reminder that the eye’s immediate judgment may also be flawed. A few weeks ago, on a bitterly cold night in Sheffield, Werner spent most of the game repeating the same run over and over.

He chose Sheffield United defender Chris Basham as the sign of the evening. He stayed a few meters in front of him: close enough to feel, not close enough to touch. He waited. He danced expectantly. And as soon as the ball fell on one of his team-mates, he made his move: it burned diagonally past Basham, cut from the left side of the field into the middle and hit the penalty area.

For a while it had no noticeable effect. There was a flank that didn’t quite come off, a shot that went off the line. And then, just before half-time, Werner got his reward. Ben Chilwell sought his course from the depths: he knew where he would be. Werner ran past Basham, struggled to the corner of the box and crossed deep so that Mason Mount let the ball crash home.

It would have been easy to overlook all the work going on in that moment. Much of this may have only been mentioned in the deepest statistical analysis. But so much of what football is all about remains invisible: pulling forward and stretching a back line, softening a defender and preparing for the coup de grace. The eye and the table sometimes tell different, equally valid stories. But there are also times when neither and both fully grasp the whole.

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