There was no time for Timo Werner to think as Thomas Muller’s pass looped into his path. His finish had to be one based on instinct, one that placed inherent trust in his skill and technique honed over countless years.
The result was impressive. Werner, on the half volley, lashed the ball beyond North Macedonia goalkeeper Stole Dimitrievski to double Germany’s advantage. The Chelsea striker would soon grab a second, this time a well-placed curled effort into the far corner.
That was a goal born out of self-belief, something Werner hasn’t lacked during his time at Stamford Bridge. Even when the goals haven’t flowed, even when countless clear-cut chances have been missed, even when VAR has frustrated the 25-year-old, he never shied away from his responsibilities on the pitch.
“It [the criticism] has to roll off you,” he said on Monday night after Germany’s 4-0 victory which sealed their place at the 2022 World Cup. “If I had been thinking too much about those days, then I would not have been able to play today.
“At some point, the barrel will be full. I know what I can do and so I go into every game with that mindset.”
Werner’s strength of character has been evident once again this term. He started both the UEFA Super Cup and Premier League opener against Crystal Palace, but the arrival of Romelu Lukaku saw the forward drop out of the starting XI.
A month passed before he was restored to the side. Werner was handed an opportunity in the Carabao Cup third round clash with Aston Villa and struck Chelsea’s only goal of the contest. He has since started in back-to-back Premier League games, the latter of which was against Southampton.
Used on the right of a front three alongside Callum Hudson-Odoi and Lukaku, Werner was able to exploit the space created for him by the Belgian, who played as a fixed point through the centre. Werner had a goal ruled out by VAR in the opening period but wasn’t disheartened and struck late on to put Chelsea in front and on the path to three points.
“I was very happy to score and help the team,” the German international said after the 3-1 win. “In the first half, the VAR decision was the story of my whole Chelsea career in one game a little bit.
“It was obviously not so clear because it took the referee a while to make his decision. Maybe 50/50. We have to accept it, I had to accept it. In the end, I was happy I could score again and we won the game.”
Werner joined up with the Germany squad soon after that victory and his brace on Monday evening will have only increased his confidence in front of goal. That is much needed and timely given there is a doubt over Lukaku’s fitness ahead of this weekend’s trip to Brentford.
The 28-year-old started and scored in Belgium’s Nations League semi-final defeat to France but then returned to Chelsea with what his national team coach, Roberto Martinez, described as muscle fatigue. That is not the same as an injury but it may convince Thomas Tuchel to, at the very least, consider starting Lukaku on the bench for the west London derby.
After a goal-laden start following his return to Chelsea – four goals in four matches – Lukaku has become an isolated figure in recent matches, as discussed more here. While not his fault a break from the side may just be the refresh he requires.
And Tuchel does not, of course, lack for options in the attacking third. Kai Havertz was also on target for Germany during the international break while Mason Mount got 90 minutes under his belt with England after returning from injury.
Hakim Ziyech and Hudson-Odoi, meanwhile, remained at Cobham and will be fresh having not been selected by Morocco and England respectively.
Yet given his much-improved form, Werner is the obvious candidate to spearhead the Chelsea attack if Lukaku is absent, something that hasn’t always been the case during his time at Stamford Bridge.