It had been a long couple of months without a goal for Timo Werner – which probably explains the relieved smile on his face when referee Peter Bankes finally awarded his goal on Monday evening.
The German played as if he had a point to prove against Newcastle at Stamford Bridge, but for the first 40 minutes or so it looked as if the same problems were continuing to plague him.
He’d sent one effort wide, blasted another over the bar, and he must have thought he’d spurned yet another chance when Karl Darlow scrambled to prevent his scuffed effort crossing the line.
But the goal was given, and even an excruciating VAR delay couldn’t stop the moment he had long been awaiting. For the first time since November he had been credited with a Chelsea goal, and he could breathe a sigh of relief.
In truth it was the goal his recent performances had merited. He had made the earlier goal for Olivier Giroud, charging down the left flank and turning Emil Krafth inside out before delivering a teasing ball that eventually broke to the Frenchman.
It came after three assists in his previous two matches, and was another sign that Thomas Tuchel might have finally cracked the code that Frank Lampard never could.
Part of what made Werner’s performance so effective was the role he was deployed in. While Lampard was often vilified for playing him off the left of a front three, it seems to work in their new 3-4-3 and 3-5-2 formations, where he has no fixed position.
The width provided by Callum Hudson-Odoi and Marcos Alonso stretched the pitch to its capacity, and that meant that Newcastle – defending it with a back four and a midfield diamond – were simply unable to clog up the spaces. Werner, then, had plenty to work with.
He fluidly flitted between hitting the by-line and drifting into the inside channel, and roamed his territory with a spring in his step. He had been given license to wreak havoc, and we saw this in the opening goal as he raced at Krafth, stopped dead, took off again, and delivered the ball into a dangerous area without even looking.
After months of tentatively jogging around with the purpose and intent of a headless chicken, he looked like a player with a plan.
His goal was much more instinctive, taking advantage of some awful marking from Jamal Lewis to bundle the ball over the line. But it’s the type of thing we are likely to see more and more of as his confidence grows within a system geared to suit him.
He’s got a long way to go yet after such a questionable start to his Chelsea career, but with Tuchel at the helm, he finally has a clearly defined role in the side.
Find space, move into space, make things happen – was it really that simple all along?