The Kai Havertz Conundrum for Chelsea


In the summer of 2021, Chelsea broke their transfer record fee to bring Kai Havertz to Stamford Bridge. The Blues paid £71 million to sign the German international. According to The Athletic, Chelsea had scouted him for a long time before signing him. The likes of Real Madrid, Liverpool, Bayern Munich, Barcelona, and Manchester United have all contacted the player’s representatives as well.

The 2019-20 season’s transfer ban, along with the financial crisis due to the COVID-19 pandemic, meant that the Blues had the necessary funds to sign him. Other clubs could not match Bayer Leverkusen’s price tag owing to financial losses suffered due to the pandemic.

Havertz’s first season was always expected to be a transitional one. Throughout the season, he struggled to adapt except in the final months and performed exceptionally well in the Champions League. The icing on the cake in his first season was his Champions League final goal. That goal turned out to be the winner against Manchester City.

Since then, there have been huge expectations from the German. On top of that, before he arrived at Chelsea, he was touted as a generational talent. Thus, the Blues fans got even more excited. The following season, he did manage to score 14 goals in all competitions. However, neither pundits nor fans were impressed. This was because he was largely inconsistent.

Thus, this season, he was expected to set the tone for the season right. However, this season as well he is yet to find his rhythm. So the question that needs to be asked is why hasn’t Chelsea seen the best of Kai Havertz.

Reasons behind Kai Havertz’s inconsistency at Chelsea

Reasons behind Kai Havertz's inconsistency at Chelsea
Reasons behind Kai Havertz’s inconsistency at Chelsea

Since Havertz arrived at Stamford Bridge, it can be argued that Thiago Silva has been the most consistent player for the club. However, it is also important to note that Havertz hasn’t played in one position like Silva. This is because since his arrival there have been managerial changes at the club.

He arrived when Frank Lampard was the manager. However, Havertz wasn’t the player Lampard wanted at the Bridge. The decision to sign the player was taken by the club. In his first season, he tested positive for coronavirus, which reduced his minutes on the pitch. Not only that, Frank Lampard wasn’t clear about his best position either. He often played him on the right wing. But that wasn’t his best position.

Even at Bayer Leverkusen, he was most effective as No. 10. An attacking midfielder playing just behind the striker. It was 2018/19 when he played that position, which was his breakout year. He scored 17 goals in the Bundesliga and he finished as the top scorer for Leverkusen. But that is not the position he has played the most at Chelsea.

After Lampard, Thomas Tuchel played a 3-4-3 formation in which Havertz either played a false nine or was on the right wing. He wasn’t comfortable with the false nine role. This was because defenders would follow him when he dropped deep. While the German struggled to deal with their physicality. However, he has now learned how to deal with the physical aspect of the game.

Tuchel was replaced by Graham Potter, who is yet to settle on a formation. Most of the time he has played a 3-4-3 or a 4-5-1 formation. Thus, Havertz was again denied the chance to play in his favorite position. But constant managerial and positional change is not the only reason behind Havertz’s inconsistency.

​The declining role of the classic Raumdeuter in Europe

The declining role of the classic Raumdeuter in Europe
The declining role of the classic Raumdeuter in Europe

After a point in time, we have seen how new philosophies have shaped clubs, formations, and managers. Before Pep Guardiola’s possession-based 4-3-3 football became the norm, many teams played with an attacking midfielder. A player who plays just behind the striker. However, in recent times we have seen how Raumdeuter’s role has been on the decline. Managers now prefer to play defensive midfielders or regista instead of Raumdeuter.

Players like James Rodriguez, Paulo Dybala, and Mesut Ozil thrived as a No. 10. However, with time, managers preferred to play a regista. Thus, their influence declined and they struggled to make the same impact on the wings in the long run. Havertz seems to be heading the same way. He is not very comfortable as a winger but he thrives as a No. 10.

Thus, a potential solution to the Havertz situation could be a change in formation. Thomas Muller reinvented himself as a Raumdeuter but Bayern Munich constantly played in a formation that helped him. Something similar can be done for Havertz as well. Chelsea have already invested heavily in him. It would be a big waste if he does not play in his best position.

The rise of Raumdeuter at Chelsea

The rise of Raumdeuter at Chelsea
The rise of Raumdeuter at Chelsea

With the rise of Joao Felix, things could take a different turn in the summer. The Portuguese international also prefers to play in the No.10 role. During his brief stay, he has shown that he can run the show from that position. Not only that, but he is also comfortable playing on either of the wings. While Havertz is largely a one-dimensional player.

It is also important to note here that Havertz is only 23 years old. The German’s best years and form are yet to come. However, he needs the support of his club and manager as well. He has shown that he is a player around whom Chelsea can build their team. It is not just the goal in the Champions League final, other times as well he has scored when his team needs him.

It is also imperative to mention here that he is a German player and Bayern Munich are always interested in top German players. He recently said in an interview that it would be hard to say no to Bayern Munich as a German player. He said, “Bayern are generally a huge club that it’s hard to say no to as a German player“. Not only this former Chelsea manager Thomas Tuchel is now in charge of the Bavarians as well. Thus the Blues will have to secure his future and position soon.

Last season, he scored a scintillating late winner against Newcastle United. Just this season as well, he scored the winner at Stamford Bridge against West Ham United. His winning goal against RB Salzburg secured Chelsea’s qualification to the Round of 16. Not only that, the German has often been praised for his composure in front of the goal. As, No.10, Chelsea could Graham Potter could unlock his playmaking ability as well. Thus, the best way forward for Chelsea and for Havertz is to play him as No.10. The Blues should build a team around the German.

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