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Tuchel looking to unlock ‘unlimited talent’ of Kai Havertz, the hybrid Number-9.5

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Thomas Tuchel on Kai Havertz

Chelsea v Wolverhampton Wanderers - Premier League Photo by Chris Lee - Chelsea FC/Chelsea FC via Getty Images

Safe to say that Kai Havertz has yet to live up to the expectations, the hype, or in fact his near-club-record transfer fee since arriving at the start of the season.

Some of that is down to bad luck, injuries, and even illness — he’s been the only player on Chelsea thus far to actually have to deal with non-negligible COVID-19 symptoms, which have derailed a large part of his season. Some of that is also down to the usual issues in terms of adaptation, of being a young man moving to a foreign country, and in the middle of a pandemic that only served to isolate him even more. And some of that is simply down to tactical issues, in trying to figure out how and where to best use him in a team chock-full of attacking talent already.

Frank Lampard tried just about every position north of defensive midfield: striker, winger, attacking midfield, with Havertz grabbing a hat-trick in a League Cup match playing as a No.10, and briefly forming a very promising attacking midfield partnership, “dual-eights” if you will, with Mason Mount. But consistency has eluded Havertz, with the various injuries and ailments not helping in the least bit.

But he seems to be recovering once again, and made his first appearance in six games as a late substitute midweek against Atlético Madrid — to illustrate how badly he’s fallen down the pecking order, he’s started just 3 of our last 16 games. That’s one less than Kepa Arrizabalaga in that same stretch.

Chelsea v Wolverhampton Wanderers - Premier League Photo by Chris Lee - Chelsea FC/Chelsea FC via Getty Images

But looking at the positives, for Tuchel, this then is a chance to start fresh with Havertz.

“Since I arrived, the only thing that kept him from making a big impact is his injury, nothing else. I see a committed guy, I see a guy who made a brave decision to move abroad at a young age and to go out of his comfort zone and accept a big challenge in a big team, in the biggest league.

“I see a totally clear guy who is totally aware of that, full of talent, unlimited talent and I see a play who will have a big impact in Chelsea, I’m absolutely convinced because the mix gives me that feeling that he can have a big role in this club and he is absolutely determined to fulfil his role.”

But where would Havertz play? Tuchel’s 3-4-3 as it stands has very limited spots for attacking players, just three, and two of those are practically undroppable in Mason Mount and Timo Werner. Would we have to rejig the system to accommodate Havertz? It’s certainly not out of the realm of possibilities, though one imagines he’d have to shown a bit more on the pitch than he has so far before that could happen.

Tuchel has no doubt that there’s immense potential here. It’s just a matter of being able to unlock it.

“He is a unique player. It’s not so clear where he needs to settle. Does he need to settle on one special position? Or is he kind of a hybrid player? Today, I would say he’s in between a nine and a 10, something in between.

“He’s very comfortable in the box; he’s very comfortable in high positions, he’s very good at offensive headers, he has good timing to arrive in the box, good finishing, good composure in the box, around the box, and very comfortable in high positions so between nine and 10.”

-Thomas Tuchel; source: Goal

So a hybrid 9.5 then? Maybe we should make it a nine and three-quarters and then he could use the secret platform at King’s Cross to help him unlock his latent abilities?