Let’s turn back the clocks a few months. It’s summer, the world is on lockdown, many people are slowly watching the minutes creep by. Then a small glimmer of hope for all football fans. The transfer window opens. Chelsea fans are met with immense joy at signing not one, not two, but six world-class, squad improving players. While all of these players bring something unique and positive to the team, one player caused a massive amount of hope and optimism for the upcoming season. That player was Kai Havertz.
Germany’s Biggest Talent
The 21-year-old German came over to London from Bayer Leverkusen and immediately had everyone’s attention. Widely regarded as the next big German starlet in world football, everyone had eyes on Kai. His talent on the ball, his passing, his decision making and his ability to assist and score incredible goals marked him out as an outstanding talent. It is clear why many major teams wanted this man on the field and Chelsea were lucky ones he chose.
His accolades in Germany speak for themselves and we all know what they are. We are all aware of what he can be capable of. We’ve seen the highlight reels, we’ve heard the pundits, we know the stats. So why does it feel like Kai’s start to the Premier League campaign hasn’t started with fireworks?
Frank Lampard’s Chelsea has drastically changed in just one season. We have true depth and extremely talented players at most positions now. So where can we unlock Kai’s true potential? Over the past few months our midfield has been superb, with Mason Mount being a clear standout player amongst the highly skilled players we have. Kai’s start to Premier League life wasn’t all rainbows and butterflies as one would expect. This is a new league, a faster paced league, one that is tougher and demands more from each player. Add to that a new team, new teammates and that little global pandemic we had and it makes for a really good start to be tough.
Kai Havertz – A Tough Adjustment
Showing glimpses of brilliance when he first was getting his feet wet including a hattrick in the Carabao Cup against Barnsley, there was clearly something still to be excited about.
Then Kai, unfortunately, contracted COVID, which left him unable to train and compete. According to Lampard in a recent press conference, Coronavirus affected Havertz more than a number of other Chelsea players. So on top of acclimating to a new league he now had a new obstacle to overcome.
Kai Havertz returned with a start against Leeds and Krasnodar, in two different positions. At Leeds, he took the Number 8 role to the right of Kante and at Krasnodar lined up on the left side in a more attacking role. So where did he flourish? Kai’s influence on the Leed’s match was noticeable. While there were a few blunders and times he lost possession, it was nothing out of the ordinary. It’s not uncommon for dribbler who likes to take on opponents to lose the ball a few times.
Fitting Kai into Chelsea’s System
With Chelsea’s preferred formation being the 4-3-3 it has been tough for Kai to abandon his Number 10 role he did so well at in Leverkusen. However, he knew coming to Chelsea meant adjustments were going to be made. Kai now faces stiff competition from Mateo Kovacic for that spot as the two of them are excellent dribblers and thrive completing those creative and key passes. However, in that Number 8 role he’s been tasked with balancing those skills along with the high press Chelsea have been implementing and defensive capabilities as well.
From that Number 8 spot Kai Havertz has shown flashes of the brilliance. At Leeds he put in a great performance that just happened to be overshadowed by a few others. He drove at Sevilla to set up Giroud’s first goal. That role for Kai, in this team, seems like the most logical place to keep him and to have him grow. In this squad, the Number 10 role just doesn’t make sense.
All of Kai’s attributes can be displayed in that Number 8 role. He will need to learn, practice and adapt, but there is every reason to believe he can. As I mentioned in a previous blog, patience will be key for this season and probably for next season as well. I also won’t be surprised if for the next few months we see a rotation of Havertz and Kovacic in that role. Both have earned the right to play there and it is no one’s outright spot.
Kai Havertz on that flank can be incredible. He is young and has a plethora of smart coaches to help him get accustomed to the tenacity of the Premier League. A few minor tune-ups and I think him and Mason on the other side will cause absolute chaos for teams. It may not be the role fans had in mind for him, but it is certainly the best fit for him going forward. All his attributes and several new ones can be acquired from this role and Kai is a player that can learn and perfect them.
Kai Havertz – The Future?
As I said, Kai Havertz will need a little more time to adjust. It’s a new very competitive league with great players everywhere you look. We know he has the talent and we know he wants to be here to perform and win for the club.
Given a little more time and experience I think Kai will find himself comfortably in that Number 8 position and will go on to do everything we know he will.