Premier League

The question is – what is the point of Kai Havertz?

Paul Macdonald
Kai Havertz Chelsea 2022-23

Chelsea have been burned on numerous occasions in the transfer market in recent times, and it feels like the worst of them have come from the Bundesliga

As well as £60 million on Kai Havertz, they splurged £65m on Timo Werner, who is already back in Germany after a disastrous spell in front of goal. How many times do you need to be burned by a league that no longer has the best record for producing high-level players – for Premier league quality players? The way that Havertz is playing at the moment, it looks as if he is destined to be the latest flop.

Chelsea are actually tripling down on this by spending a similar amount of money on Christopher Nkunku, who will arrive this summer from RB Leipzig. Joao Felix will likely fill in the gap until then.

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But Havertz’s entire demeanor shows a player who is so short on confidence. He is like a ghost, drifting in and around football matches but never actually impacting them or making any meaningful contribution within them.

Any time Havertz collects the ball, it’s usually in a position of least danger for the opposition team. He’s dropping right, dropping left, dropping deep. And any time he does have it the most he ever does is lay it off to the player who is nearest him, either to the left or to the right, or in a position that means he just simply can’t lose possession.

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He’s not taking risks, he’s not committing players, he’s not doing all the things that made him such a special player when he was at Bayer Leverkusen and in his early days for the German national team.

It’s not as if he isn’t being given the minutes to prove his skills – he’s played as the No. 9 more often than any other player for Chelsea this season. Whether that’s his position, or whether he’d be better deployed deeper, he isn’t showing enough to justify moving him anywhere except out of the team.

His nonsensical handball seemed perfectly in sync with the disaster that is this season. Against Manchester City he jumped to header with his hand in the air, and he inexplicably punched the ball away. What do you do with a guy like this, someone who is so talented but clearly isn’t set up or conducive to working within the team environment that Graham Potter is in the process of building?

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It’s a very difficult question to answer, and in the absence of Chelsea having any alternatives despite the £300m plus that they’ve spent in the transfer market over the past 18 months, it speaks volumes.

But it speaks to not only Chelsea’s transfer policy, but the problems that Potter is having to deal with.

Both Havertz and Werner flopped at Chelsea

Both Havertz and Werner flopped at Chelsea

Havertz not always hot at Leverkusen

When Havertz was at Leverkusen in the 2019/20 season, he scored just two goals in the first half of the campaign and he ultimately lost his place in the side. Having scored 17 in 33 Bundesliga appearances the season before, there were serious concerns on burnout and whether he was ready to compete consistently at the highest level.

In the covid-hit second half of the season, Havertz hit 15 goals and eight assists, performing at such a high level that Chelsea felt compelled to acquire him. The point is that Havertz has previous of going so far off the boil, his role in the team seems obsolete.

Is he capable of going through a spell like that and coming out the other side as a better player? The only thing that’s clear is that he has scored less goals in two-and-a-half seasons at Chelsea than he did in his best season in Germany.

Joao Felix is set to join Chelsea on loan for rest of season

Joao Felix is set to join Chelsea on loan for rest of season

But it’s arguably all other aspects of the game which show a player simply avoiding the action. From his last season at Leverkusen until this one, Havertz’s touches P90 have fallen from 65.2 to 43.8. Successful dribbles from 2.09 to just 0.63. He is successfully receiving half of the amount of passes he used to.

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He is being fouled less. He is crossing less. He is recovering the ball less. He is, overall, having a fleeting impact on football matches and Chelsea simply need more than that. Potter needs more than that.

And that’s why the Joao Felix deal is happening. Whether Felix can outperform Havertz remains to be seen; in many ways he has suffered a similar fate at Atletico Madrid; isolated in attack, forced to drop deep, and ultimately unable to convey his talents effectively.

But the question of where Havertz goes from here, and for who, remains. Is he simply not cut out for the very top, both physically and mentally?

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