Thomas Tuchel hailed Timo Werner for proving he still has a Chelsea future with a hard-fought brace in the Blues’ 6-0 thumping of Southampton.
Werner claimed a perfect hat-trick of sorts, by striking the left post, right post and crossbar at St Mary’s Stadium on Saturday.
But the 26-year-old kept his cool and delivered a telling double as Chelsea shook off leaking seven goals in two defeats to smash the sorry Saints.
Werner has been linked with a move away from Chelsea this summer, and had only managed one Premier League goal before Saturday’s south coast romp.
The hard-working forward has refused to give up on his Stamford Bridge situation however, leaving boss Tuchel delighted with his latest response.
“Timo was playing in his favorite position, and he loves to play with Mason Mount, Kai Havertz and Mateo Kovacic,” said Tuchel.
“He has a connection to these players. He loves the double striker position, the half left position.
“It was an opponent where we could imagine we’d find spaces in behind because it was a higher attacking opponent.
“Everything was set out for him to deliver, honestly.
“It was for him to show that he’s still an important player for this group and that’s exactly what he did. It was necessary, strong but necessary.”
Mount bagged a brace for himself to add to Werner’s double, with Marcos Alonso and Havertz also on target.
Chelsea compounded last weekend’s 4-1 humbling by Brentford by slipping to a damaging 3-1 Champions League quarter-final first-leg loss to Real Madrid at Stamford Bridge on Wednesday.
Tuchel held lengthy talks with his players on Thursday in a bid to hit back to form, and the response was both telling and immediate.
A delighted Blues boss praised his players for rediscovering their swagger.
“It was a very good performance offensive-wise but also defensive-wise,” said Tuchel.
“It’s not only a possession game against Southampton, it’s about winning the duels, accepting the physicality.
“There was a good mix in all areas of the pitch, in mentality and commitment: it was very, very good.”
Chelsea know full well Tuesday’s second leg at Madrid’s Bernabeu Stadium represents one of the tallest orders in world football.
And the Blues might have to cope without captain Cesar Azpilicueta, who has tested positive for Covid-19, and striker Romelu Lukaku who continues to battle Achilles tendon pain.
“Azpi, well he had a positive Covid test yesterday so I have no prediction about that, I don’t even know the rules about that,” said Tuchel.
“First of all we need a negative test. We can’t do anything about that, just hope and wait.
“Romelu I don’t know yet, he had pain in the last training and time’s running out.
“We leave the country on Monday, so let’s see.”
Southampton boss Ralph Hasenhuttl lamented history repeating itself.
Saints’ 9-0 defeats by Leicester and Manchester United have been well-documented but Hasenhuttl admitted seeing many of the same old problems recurring here.
“The only chance for us against a team like Chelsea is when we are hot and they are not so motivated,” said Hasenhuttl.
“We are not convinced that we can press such a team at the moment.
“That was the problem in the start and then we tried to change a few things to make it more compact. But every ball loss led to a super counter-attack.
“This was very disappointing to see that we fall back into behaviors that we thought had gone.
“It seems we have to have one game like this a season, which is not nice to watch and very hard to take.
“If you play like this against the Champions League winners, this is what happens.
“You have to defend better, come quicker behind the ball, close the gaps quicker. Because this team kills you when they have chances.”