Timo Werner makes first inroad to erase Chelsea past with Tottenham goal

Timo Werner - Timo Werner makes first inroad to erase Chelsea past with Tottenham winner

Timo Werner will likely always find himself swimming against the English tide, his previous ill-fated spell at Stamford Bridge having had an almost exclusively negative current. Chelsea did, after all, sign the German for £47.5 million in 2020, only to return him to sender – on a near half-price deal – two seasons and just 23 goals later.

So, when Tottenham brought Werner back to London in January, temporarily at least, from RB Leipzig, a few eyebrows were raised. There was even some gentle mocking.

Yet with the leveller in another come-from-behind Spurs victory, Werner has taken the first stroke towards shifting public opinion. Should he sparkle, should his side return to the Champions League, come the end of the season, Werner’s acquisition will prove smart business. His stay may even be turned permanent.

Werner will have left the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium on Saturday night feeling relieved. He had run tirelessly, always looking to dance around his full-back. He had scored his first Tottenham goal with a simple finish. Johnson had done the hard work and Werner merely tapped in from the edge of the six-yard box. But Werner’s movement was smart, hanging back for a split-second to escape Daniel Munoz’s line of sight. Creating space – both for himself and others – is what Werner does best.

That prevented what could quickly have become a social media pile-on. Why? Because with the game goalless, Werner had fluffed his first-half lines. Son Heung-min had swiftly pitched a first-time left-footed ball forward and Werner’s initial touch was exquisite. He was never going to be caught in a 50-yard dash, so whether he could finish was the only outstanding question.

There are some forwards who supporters do not want to see given time and space to think about how to apply a goal-scoring touch: Werner is amongst them. His attempt to circumnavigate Sam Johnstone failed. His team-mates ruffled his hair in support, and lesser players may have buckled. Werner did not and that speaks to his character. “He was a constant threat to them,” said Ange Postecoglou afterwards.

“I understand with attacking players that goals make them feel better, feel a bit more confident, so this relieves the pressure a little bit. Just in general I thought he was really aggressive with his running, kept taking on the full-back.

“Apart from the missed chance, I thought his general play was really good. A goal always helps these things. It was pleasing for us. It was an important time of the game, and it was great for him to score.”

Pre-Werner’s intervention, Spurs were trailing to Eberechi Eze’s 59th-minute free-kick. As time disappeared, an old-school “smash and grab” looked likely. Oliver Glasner had set Palace up to contain.

What had been a back three with attack-minded wing-backs last week against Burnley, was a back five as flat as a bottle of pop left lidless in a cupboard. In front of them, Adam Wharton and Jefferson Lerma sucked the space from Spurs. There were few, if any, pockets for Postecoglou’s playmakers to operate in.

Werner’s leveller was the turning point. Within three minutes the match had been flipped, Cristian Romero heading in James Maddison’s cross to spark wild celebrations. Even Richarlison – absent with a knee injury – sprinted down the touchline to join the joyous scenes.

As Palace pushed to level, space opened. When Son raced clear with just two minutes remaining there was little doubt as to the outcome. 3-1. Game done.

Son Heung-min - Timo Werner makes first inroad to erase Chelsea past with Tottenham winner
Son Heung-min sealed victory for Tottenham with his first club goal of 2024 - PA/Andrew Matthews

Comparing Son and Werner is unfair, though. The former is a truly world-class forward, a once-in-a-generation player. Werner is a very good footballer who can play an important role in something greater than himself. That should be remembered.

Werner’s first spell in England came off the back of a 34-goal season, and it has become clear that such returns were the exception not the rule. That will not be news to Tottenham. Werner was brought in to play a part not unlike that of the last former Chelsea striker they signed on loan in 2010. Back then, Eidur Gudjohnsen helped Tottenham realise their top-four dream. If Werner can do likewise, he will have more than proved his value.