Sports Gazette

by sports journalism students at St Mary's University, London

Kai Havertz – The Future of Chelsea

Posted on 25 February 2022 by Ewan Lury

Manchester City’s defence was in disarray.

Pulled apart by a devastating decoy run from Timo Werner, Kai Havertz was ready to put his name in lights. A difficult debut season at the club was set to be erased.

The German settled himself and passed the ball into the empty net in the 42nd minute of the 2021 Champions League final. With one swing of his left foot he etched his name into Chelsea folklore.

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The 21-year-old’s £72 million price tag – which then Chelsea manager Frank Lampard paid Bayer Leverkusen in 2020 – has been used as a stick to beat the confidence out of the German international.

There are not many 21-year-olds worth £72million, and Havertz doesn’t care.

 

I don’t give a f***! We just won the Champions League!” he exclaimed to Des Kelly live on BT Sport after the match ended.

 

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Fast-forward nine months and Havertz was at it yet again, scoring the all-important penalty against Palmeiras as Chelsea became only the fifth club to have won every European trophy, joining an exclusive list which includes Juventus, Manchester United, Bayern Munich, Ajax and now Chelsea.

But even after three trophies in 18 months, Havertz hasn’t settled at Chelsea.

“Havertz is a bit of a conundrum. His first 18 months at Chelsea have been a bit of a mixed bag. He gave me one of the best days of my life. It’s clear he has class and a ton of skill. But, and I say this with respect, its not been consistent enough so far and that’s what is missing for a lot of Chelsea fans” said Nick Verlaney, host of The London Is Blue Podcast.

 

Build the team around Havertz

Havertz offers a wide range of skills and is effortless on the ball and is considered one of the most graceful players in world football. He doesn’t run, but glides across the pitch.

But alongside his grace there is grit – Havertz isn’t afraid to get in the head of his opponents, as we saw when he riled up Sergio Ramos and Toni Kroos in the Champions League semi-final last year.

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At Leverkusen, Havertz often played in the space between midfield and attack, anticipating where the ball was going in order to punish the opposition – emulating the man who signed him for Chelsea.

In his final two years at Leverkusen, Havertz had 38 goal contributions in 64 league games operating either as a false nine, or a central/right-sided attacking midfielder.

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Havertz thrived in the freedom, timing runs in behind or driving at defences from deep and playing a killer pass – one of his best assists involved teeing up Moussa Diaby in a 2-0 win over Augsburg in early 2020.

Where Havertz needs to play for Chelsea is anywhere he wants to – he needs a freedom that Chelsea doesn’t offer. But if they were to, he could dominate world football.

 

The Strength of Freedom

Manchester City and Liverpool have recently conquered domestic football with the usage of a false nine system.

The false nine role enables the ‘striker’ to drop deeper and get into positions that both benefit the midfield and the attack.

Pep Guardiola, Manchester City manager and the former Barcelona boss, has used the system for years, deploying Lionel Messi there during his successes at Barcelona.

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Messi infamously dominated Real Madrid in 2009 in a false nine system at the Santiago Bernabeu as Barcelona won 6-2 away from home.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JPeI419Qd0g

Already showing one side of his ability as a false nine against Man City in the final, a different skillset was shown in previous rounds, in Chelsea’s dominant 4-0 performance against Sevilla.

For the first goal, Havertz picked up the ball in his own half before driving past two players and forcing Sevilla deep into their own box, before playing in Giroud.

It is Havertz’ best position for Chelsea and if it wasn’t for the man who took over the title as ‘most expensive Chelsea signing’, he would feature in it every week.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EOtlAf3UHRI

 

A Strike Partnership

Chelsea’s current desire is to play Havertz alongside Lukaku up front in an attempt to get the best out of their record signing.

Lukaku will want a partnership with the German that mimics the successful one he had with Lautaro Martinez at Inter Milan – one that got the best out of the Belgian as they dominated Serie A last year.

Havertz’ ideal strike partner at Chelsea is Timo Werner, but his partnership with Lukaku is starting to show signs of potential.

At the Club World Cup, we saw Lukaku work as a direct no.9, whilst Havertz operated in the channels, relentlessly making runs in between the centre-backs and full backs.

Lukaku wants the freedom to run into the channels at Chelsea, but when the majority of teams you will play against sit with 10 men behind the ball, Lukaku has to allow the other players to make the runs off of him.

Havertz has assisted half of Lukaku’s 10 goals for Chelsea, including the one against Al Hilal SFC that broke his goalscoring drought with a delicate cross into the box, before a ricochet landed at the Belgian’s feet and he duly dispatched.

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Is Havertz Willing To Take a Hit?

The success of Romelu Lukaku is paramount to Chelsea football club and they can’t be seen to spend £100million on a striker who they then must sell at a cut-price deal.

It seems like Havertz’ role is to facilitate the success of someone else, but perhaps that is his best chance at succeeding himself. If he gets goals, assists, and plays his own game when he can, we could see the start of a lengthy Chelsea career.

With Havertz starting and scoring as the striker against Lille, it is most likely that he will partner Lukaku up front on Sunday as Chelsea look to win their third trophy of the season already.

It could kickstart a partnership that could make them the greatest strike pairing in Chelsea history, and could lead to them adding another trophy to Chelsea’s growing pile.