Thriving in new role, Kai Havertz has proved doubters wrong under Arteta


If you take your mind back to the start of the English Premier League 2023-24 campaign, you would find one of the most bizarre signings in recent history.

Kai Havertz had made his way to London rivals Arsenal from Chelsea. The transfer received instant backlash as a lot of peoplewould question, why would Arsenal sign a player for £60 million that had flopped at his previous club?

Well now fast forward to the end of an eventful league campaign, the football world needs to give Mikel Arteta, his recruitment team and most importantly, Kai Havertz their flowers.

The German went from being an enigma at Chelsea to one of the main cogs that made Arteta’s title-challenging Arsenal side push Manchester City to the last game day.

At Chelsea, Havertz’s best output came three seasons ago in 2021-22, where he scored eight goals and provided three assists.

Since then Havertz has never really looked like the rising star we saw at Bayer Leverkusen. Imagine scoring the winning goal in a Champions League final and your fans still giving you constant stick – that was the reality for Havertz at Stamford Bridge.

Havertz in his Chelsea days (Photo by Mike Hewitt/Getty Images)

With his future at Chelsea uncertain amidst transfer rumours to help the Blues clear their books, Arsenal swooped with a controversial transfer which many people labelled as a mistake.

Despite a rocky start where Arteta clearly was forcing, insteading of easing the German into the side as evident with his goalless first six games, his performances grew as the young Arsenal side grew.

Havertz thrived in this Gunners team as arguably since his Leverkusen days, the German finally had a clear role. At Chelsea, Havertz was constantly rotated around from being a winger, to a CAM, to a No.9 asked to hold up the play.

At the Emirates, Havertz bought a profile of a player that Arsenal did not possess which made him an important factor in Arteta’s thinking every week. A big presence that could hold the ball up and be an outlet pass, or a tall No.8 who can bring the physicality in the midfield that Granit Xhaka left behind when he moved to Leverkusen, Havertz looked like he could be Arsenal’s missing piece of the puzzle.

However, Havertz’s best form didn’t come until later in the season, at the expense of Gabriel Jesus. Havertz transitioned back to the striker role where he thrived being the main man in a fluid, organised system.

His xG increased to an all-time high of 0.44 for 90 minutes and his all-round play had improved to a much more refined level under Arteta.

The game-winning goal against Brentford and the game-winning assist against Manchester City was evidence that Havertz was not the same player who was drifting and going through the motions at Chelsea.

This was made more clear when the German lined up against his former side and helped Arsenal record a 5-0 thumping with an elegant goal against their London rivals. This game highlighted Havertz’s personal development and the destruction of the ‘flop’ status as well as showing Arteta’s vision for the club.

Thirteen goals and seven assists in the league with 14 of the goal contributions coming after February (only behind Cole Palmer) firmly cemented his development as a player and that after all this time, in Arteta’s words, “Just show him love and he’ll come good.”

There may have been mockery of this signing at the start of the season but upon the Premier League’s conclusion we can confidently say Kai Havertz is finally showing why his time at Leverkusen put his name up in rising star status and that respect needs to be put on his name, as he will only continue to flourish until Arteta.

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