Real important that Werner starts scoring: Richard Buxton
Chelsea could plump for other striking options next season if German forward keeps misfiring
Timo Werner has spent this season drowning his sorrows in the last chance saloon.
But time is no longer on the striker's side in the battle to salvage his Chelsea career.
In just 12 months, he has gone from being one of football's hottest properties to one of its biggest liabilities due to a dismal return since his £47.5 million (S$88m) move from Bundesliga side RB Leipzig.
Stamford Bridge was supposed to be the place where Werner's burgeoning talent would truly take flight, elevating it to a befitting level at the Champions League's vanguard.
Ahead of his side's semi-final, second-leg clash with Real Madrid tomorrow morning (Singapore time), however, the Germany international will be fighting for his future.
Had the coronavirus not intervened, Werner might have found himself lining up for, rather than against, Zinedine Zidane's European royalty in this last-four showdown.
As most elite-level clubs struggled with staff costs at the height of the pandemic, the Blues were able to steal a march on a chasing pack, which featured Los Blancos and Liverpool, to land the prodigious marksman last summer.
Yet, patience with Werner is now wearing increasingly thin in this well-heeled corner of the English capital following a meagre return of 11 goals in 46 outings, which is made worse by the fact that he has scored just three times this year.
Teammates refuse to hide their frustrations with an inability to fulfil his stock in trade, while even Thiago Silva's wife weighed in on a player "who keeps missing goals" after he failed to score in last week's first leg, where he spurned a gilt-edged opportunity.
Those instances have become far too frequent for the 24-year-old in this campaign.
Racking up more assists (13) than any other Blues player, with the most recent arriving in last Saturday's 2-0 win over Fulham, has done little to lessen the scrutiny on him.
Only Thomas Tuchel's willingness to offer his compatriot every possible avenue for redemption prevents Chelsea's prospective succession plan from being accelerated.
Erling Haaland, Sergio Aguero and Romelu Lukaku are just some of the names reportedly on Tuchel's transfer wish list, as he seeks to keep a greater pace with English Premier League champions-elect Manchester City and Juergen Klopp's likely resurgent Reds next term.
Injuries may have restricted Aguero to just four strikes in 16 appearances for City in 2020/21 but the inference is still clear: Werner's output is simply not up to expectations.
Finding the target in his next two games, against Real and Pep Guardiola's imperious charges on Sunday morning, has the potential to spare him the indignation of becoming another costly flop.
Had he not missed in the first leg in Madrid, it could have earned him instant cult hero status.
If he had found the back of Thibaut Courtois' net instead of hitting his outstretched leg, Chelsea fans would likely be hailing their misfiring No. 11, not Christian Pulisic, as a saviour.
Nearly three years on, Courtois' defection to the Bernabeu still rankles with many at the Bridge. The possibility of inflicting further misery on their once-loyal subject is as strong an incentive as taking the Champions League's record-holders' place in the final.
Should Werner find a way past the Belgian tomorrow, he stands a better chance of winning over his many detractors, both outside and within the dressing room.