OPINION: Kai Havertz scored a goal against Lille Chelsea fans expected Romelu Lukaku to score, that’s symbolism

Kai Havertz is technically not a striker. But that’s the role he played in the later stages of Chelsea’s 2020/21 season, peaking with the unforgettable goal against Manchester City that turned him into the hero of Chelsea’s Champions League run. Havertz at striker is arguably what won us the trophy.

Then came Romelu Lukaku. Before this season begun, Lukaku was supposed to be the missing link in the squad – the elusive No. 9 that Chelsea lacked. It meant that Havertz would be shifted to the wing, or, more commonly, to the bench. Throughout this season so far, Lukaku typically started above Havertz as the front man.

Havertz celebrates scoring against Lille. Image courtesy of Getty Images
Havertz celebrates scoring against Lille. Image courtesy of Getty Images

In hindsight, Lukaku hasn’t made as much of an impact as we thought he would. As we all know, he’s struggling to score goals and make big plays, climaxing with his measly seven touches in his most recent game against Crystal Palace.

In response to Lukaku’s poor form, Thomas Tuchel placed Havertz as the starting striker in the match against Lille in the first leg of the Champions League round of 16, leaving Lukaku on the bench. It was a bold move, but it saw Havertz returning to the position that he thrived in back in the Champions League final.

Lukaku’s performances have been a point of contention among Chelsea fans as of late. Similar to the game against Tottenham, Tuchel’s decision to leave him out sent a message. In the end, the bold move paid off, and Havertz scored early in the match. After Hakim Ziyech curled the ball into the box from a corner kick, Havertz headed in past Lille’s goalkeeper into the net – a very “Lukaku” way to score.

The Belgian is known for his heading ability, and he’s considered one of the Premier League’s most prolific target men. So, the symbolism of Havertz’s goal could not be lost.

The goal made Tuchel’s message to Lukaku even more potent. It was Havertz’s own way of saying “I’m still this team’s striker.” The Champions League hero finally returns to his position as a makeshift striker and does what Champions League heroes do.

The next game was the EFL Cup final against Liverpool. With so many players vying for one of the front three positions, the starting lineup could have rolled any direction. But Havertz got the nod as the No. 9 and Lukaku spent another kickoff on the bench. Havertz’s performance looked promising, but eventually he slid over to make room for Lukaku.

Despite ultimately losing in penalties, Lukaku gave a better performance than we’ve seen of late. Even his body language was more positive and he seemed to have a more team-focused mentality – deciding to pass the ball rather than taking every chance himself. Plus, he had much more than even touches. Perhaps, the message did get through.

Written by CFCExtra (@CFCExtra)

Edited by Tom Coley (@tomcoley49)

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