Ryan profiles Kai Havertz amidst more heavy links with the Leverkusen youngster.
I feel like I have been here before, having this strong sense of Déjà vu. It was only a few short weeks ago that I was sitting right here working up my thoughts on a certain German goal machine. I was trying to get to the bottom of whether or not Chelsea should even spend the time pursuing a player whose head had apparently already been turned by Jurgen Klopp.
Two days later and out of nowhere, Timo was a blue.
Fortunately, any element of surprise with the potential transfer of Kai Havertz has gone out of the window. Unlike the secrecy that led to the signings of Hakim Ziyech and Timo Werner, Chelsea’s admiration for the Bayer Leverkusen star has been uncharacteristically public. Bayern Munich are unable to afford the £90 million secure Havertz this summer after bringing Leroy Sane back to Germany from Manchester City, and Real Madrid are unsure of their financial situation and summer transfer plans.
So what would Havertz bring to London? How would he fit into the squad both in the immediate future, and in Frank Lampard’s long term vision?
At just 21 years old, he has already completed his fourth Bundesliga season with Bayer Leverkusen, making 135 appearances in the domestic and European competition. There have been several attributes that have stood out in this time.
Chelsea have been used to more diminutive creative forces of late – with Eden Hazard, Juan Mata, Oscar and Willian below six foot. Havertz stands apart. At 6’2”, or 189cm, Havertz would likely find himself closer to the back row of the 20/21 Chelsea team photo alongside the likes of Tammy Abraham and Ruben Loftus-Cheek. Interestingly, his size is in no way a hindrance to his creative ability, in fact, it is almost an advantage. His size and physique allow him to go shoulder to shoulder with defenders or simply nudge them off balance, while maintaining his own momentum in the phase.
His size also affords him an advantage in the air, helping him to aerial balls from midfield, and contribute occasionally with headed goals, including three this past Bundesliga season.
Pace and agility
Kai Havertz is fast – having the fifth highest sprint speed in Bundesliga last season at 21.76mph – outpacing players like Timo Werner and Bayern speed demon Kingsley Coman.
On top of his blistering sprint, Havertz has excellent agility and mental quickness. His ability to play in tight spaces, play short and quick combinations with teammates, or move to find or create spaces to receive the ball, is quite impressive for someone his age, and his stature.
One area that Havertz is not fully developed in is his acceleration. Unlike Willian or Eden Hazard, who have the ability to go from a dead stop to past their opponent in a matter of seconds, Havertz tends to glide in more continuous motion. If Havertz does end up in a dead stop on the ball, he is likely looking to pass out and move to receive again, certainly not a bad trait, but if he is able to develop that explosive acceleration further, it would be another trick in his toolbox.
Havertz has an excellent eye for a pass and a silky left foot, completing a staggering 93% of his short passes in the Bundesliga. The youngster made an impressive 59 key passes, averaging just over two per game.
Statistically, Havertz was only credited with 6 assists on the season, but that is likely a result of less gifted teammates not finishing chances, or Havertz being the passer that sets up the assister – as happened quite often when Havertz dropped off deeper allowing the two wingers/inside forwards to run in behind the line.
Havertz is characterised by his ability to find the right pass in the right situation, and his ability to get the ball there by any means. He not only has the vision to see the pass, but also the ingenuity to find a way to make the pass. Whether it is on a counter attack, or with two defenders closing him down outside of the 18 yard box, Havertz can play the long through ball or the delicate outside foot flick to get the ball where he wants it, usually with the perfect weight on it for his teammate to continue the move.
Havertz is an exceptional goalscoring player. He has 42 goals in his 4 seasons with Leverkusen, but his goal scoring really ticked up during the 18/19 campaign, scoring 20 goals in 40 matches in the Bundesliga and Europa League. This season, despite having a slight drop in form at the beginning of the year, Havertz still managed 15 goals in 38 matches, with the latter stages of the Europa League still to play.
Versatility has become increasingly important under the regime of Frank Lampard is versatility. Both Hakim Ziyech and Timo Werner have positional versatility: Ziyech as an inverted winger on the right, and possibly central and attacking midfield. Timo Werner can play as centre-forward, or an inverted winger or left-sided forward.
Kai Havertz also satisfies this condition.
Widely perceived as a number ten during his young career, Havertz has been deployed both wide on the right and, recently, up top as a false nine by Peter Bosz. If that was not enough, Havertz recently revealed in an interview that he likes playing in central midfield because it allows him more opportunities to make things happen.
Where does he fit?
Frank Lampard’s long term vision consists of a 4-3-3 with a holding midfielder and two more attacking eights, with the 4-2-3-1 and 3-4-3 being used as backup formations. In the 4-3-3, Havertz would have the ability to play wide and inverted on the right wing, further forward as a false 9, or as the right sided advanced central midfielder. He would certainly have competition for that central spot however, competing with the likes of Mason Mount, Ruben Loftus-Cheek, Mateo Kovacic, Billy Gilmour, Ross Barkley and N’Golo Kante.
That is not even including the likes of Conor Gallagher and Tino Anjorin. It is certainly an area of the pitch that Chelsea appear to be well stocked.
This is where questions about the need for Havertz come in. The main argument against the signing is being reluctant to spend heavily when we have so many midfielders and attackers, and our defense being so weak. However, I believe that you do not pass on a player like Kai Havertz given the opportunity to sign him, and signing Kai Havertz does not preclude Chelsea from addressing the defensive issues.
Verdict: Better in Blue?
I am fully on board with the signing of Kai Havertz. His age, experience, and ability are things that you cannot turn away from. The potential connections between Havertz as the right sided eight and the players around him could be devastating. His ability to combine with Tammy, Werner, or Giroud up top, interchange freely with Ziyech or Hudson-Odoi on the right wing, or feed a ball down the line for the onrushing Reece James to deliver one of his delicious crosses into the box should be get any fan excited. Throw in the fact that he will be learning the position from one of the best to ever do it, and the argument could be made that Havertz could even be better in blue then he has been for the last 4 years in Germany. When you put the entire package together, it is easy to see why Chelsea appear willing to commit such a high sum for such a young player, even in an area that some could argue is already strong enough. Havertz is in a class of his own, and for a club looking to return to their place at the top of English and European football, Havertz is an absolute no brainer.