Chelsea put in an uncharacteristically subpar performance on Saturday to lose 1-0 to Everton. Almost to a man, except for maybe Reece James, every Chelsea player was off their usual standard, even the likes of Édouard Mendy, Thiago Silva, and N’Golo Kanté.
For one player however, that wasn’t exactly a new thing. Kai Havertz has been struggling to impose himself on games lately, often compounding his lack of impact at one end by gifting away opportunities at the other with untimely and dangerously positioned turnovers. To make matters worse, it’s also not exactly he first time such patterns have emerged in his play, even though he’s only been here for a few months!
Chelsea’s record non-goalkeeper signing started the season in a similar fashion, then found form, then lost form, which he’s currently still trying to regain. Of course, overanalyzing the situation won’t help anyone — and there are certainly mitigating circumstances to consider as well (a not insignificant bout with COVID-19, playing wide instead of central, age, new league, etc) — but that’s not preventing it from happening anyway.
The head coach’s job in such cases is to defend their player, and that’s precisely what Frank Lampard is doing.
“In the modern day there is going to be criticism for every player of every club who loses a game.
“We should be patient with Havertz from the Chelsea end because he is a top-quality talent who has come into this league. He can play in any position across the front three and he has played on the right countless times before he played for Chelsea.
“People who want to jump on to criticise [should] just wait and give a young player time. I know the player that Kai Havertz is going to be.”
-Frank Lampard; source: BBC
That last line echoes a similar (and very famous) vote of confidence Frank Lampard once received from then West Ham boss Harry Redknapp. Whether this one proves to be as prophetic as that one was, we won’t know for quite some time.
Havertz clearly has the skills and the proven track record in the Bundesliga, despite his young age (150 total appearances for Bayer Leverkusen). His adaptation to the Premier League and to Chelsea has been a bit slower than the rest of his fellow summer signings, but he’s also had to deal with far more problems and distractions than the others.
In a similar situation, Lampard took Christian Pulisic out of the spotlight for a bit last season, and that proved to be a masterstroke, for the player and the team equally. Perhaps a similar solution is warranted in Kai’s case — injuries permitting since one of the reasons he’s had to play as a de facto right winger in the last couple games is because of all our actual wingers being unavailable.
Patience is the rarest of commodities in modern football. Dig deep, and find some.