It’s Groundhog Day for Timo Werner
Timo Werner described his first season as a Chelsea player as unlucky. Given the German had 15 goals disallowed by a combination of the match officials and VAR, you can understand why he came to that conclusion.
The majority of the goals Werner had ruled out during the 2020/21 campaign were due to offside decisions. The 25-year-old would either start his run a fraction too early or not ensure he was level having previously moved beyond the last defender.
With VAR in operation, Werner was caught out time and time again, sometimes by the very smallest of margins. Fortunately, that shouldn’t happen as much this season, as explained in this piece.
Yet at Stamford Bridge last night, German international relived a process he went through time and time again last term. When the ball was fired into the feet of Hakim Ziyech, he caressed it into the path of Werner.
Away from the Tottenham defence and one-on-one with new Spurs goalkeeper Pierluigi Gollini, Werner rounded the Italian and tucked the ball into the empty net. But, as has almost become customary, the goal was disallowed as the linesman had raised his flag.
It was a tight call and subsequent replays should it to be the wrong one as Werner had timed his run perfectly. Unfortunately for the Chelsea forward, VAR isn’t in use during pre-season so the mistake couldn’t be overruled. That is definitely unlucky.
Tino Anjorin makes his mark
The 19-year-old has remained very much under the radar throughout 2021 despite being an established figure in Thomas Tuchel’s first-team squad. The reason for that is the lack of minutes Anjorin has played; it certainly has nothing to do with his talent.
Anjorin is a physically dominant midfielder but couples that with the quick feet of a flighty winger. It makes for one incredibly impressive package, one that Tuchel admirers hugely. And it was easy to see why against Spurs last night.
Introduced just after the hour mark, Anjorin was able to display his quick feet, strength and game intelligence during his 30 minutes on the pitch. One run, in particular, that resulted in a low stop from Gollini was particularly eye-catching.
What’s next for Anjorin is intriguing. The perceived wisdom is that he should head out on loan, that he should get senior minutes under his belt. Yet Tuchel may feel differently, especially as the plans he had for the young midfielder during pre-season didn’t come to pass.
“When the season ended we agreed he stays for pre-season and he’d get the minutes he deserves,” Tuchel told football.london after last night’s 2-2 draw.
“Unfortunately, before the first friendly, Tino was the guy to test positive for Covid and really suffered for ten, 12 days. You could see today that it was the first time he was back on the pitch and it was a lot for him to start with 30 minutes.
“So he was unlucky with the situation, he had no responsibility for it. So, honestly, I can’t really judge him and what I saw today in five, ten minutes was very promising again. He is strong, confident, creative, assists and scores a lot of goals in training for us.
“I just wished we had the possibility to see him against Peterborough, Bournemouth and Arsenal so he could really make a statement. Now the season more or less starts again. So he has suffered without having any responsibility for it.
“The situation is maybe a bit unchanged for him. The most important thing is for him to get fit, he had some trouble to adapt to the intensity. I think he struggles a little from his illness, so we have to be very careful about him.”
Thumbs up for Hakim Ziyech
The Moroccon international has enjoyed an impressive pre-season. There was the hat-trick in the friendly against Peterborough, an influential display at the Emirates against Arsenal, and last night two goals against Tottenham.
Ziyech was given plenty of freedom by Tuchel against Spurs. Stationed nominally on the right, he would often drift across the pitch to collect possession or drop into the half-space between Sergio Reguilon and Eric Dier and cause countless problems.
The 28-year-old’s opening goal was, though, far more direct. N’Golo Kante – who’ll we get onto properly in a moment – challenged Lucas Moura in midfield and the ball broke to Ziyech in the centre circle.
He drove forwards with the ball towards the edge of the box and, with Werner having opened up a space with his run, Ziyech was able to release a low drive that flew into the bottom corner. It was a stunning strike.
Ziyech clearly felt the same as his celebration involved the former Ajax star giving two thumbs up to the Chelsea supporters in the Shed End.
N’Golo Kante leaves Kurt Zouma in awe
There is nothing left to say or write about N’Golo Kante that hasn’t been done so before. The diminutive Frenchman is quite simply phenomenal.
Going into last night’s game, 45 minutes against Arsenal on Sunday was all the match action Kante had been given during pre-season. And yet he completely ran the first half at Stamford Bridge.
Not only did he reclaim possession back on countless occasions and kickstart Chelsea attacks, but he displayed the still underrated side of his game: his work on the ball.
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There was one lovely turn to evade Dele Alli when the Tottenham star came to pressure Kante. But what came a few minutes after was even more impressive.
Alli attempted to play a pass infield to Son Heung-min but it was far too close to Kante, who managed to get a foot to the ball. The chase was then on between the Chelsea midfielder and Son as to who would get claim possession first.
It was Kante. It’s always Kante. He took it a step further, however, and impudently poked the ball through the legs of the South Korean before continuing a Blues attack.
There was a roar of approval from the Chelsea supporters inside Stamford Bridge. Zouma, meanwhile, watching on just feet away instantly brought his hands to his face and covered his mouth in shock and awe. That’s what Kante can do to a teammate.
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