Kai Havertz did some things on Monday that we’ve not really seen since he joined Chelsea for big money (more than anyone else in club history other than Kepa Arrizabalaga—big) in the summer.
First off, he started a Premier League match, which was noteworthy in and of itself, and he started a match under Tuchel, just his second ever after the very first match in charge for the new boss, an underwhelming 0-0 draw against Wolves a month and a half ago. More pertinently, Havertz played just about as well as he’s ever played for Chelsea, and certainly the best since coming down with a relatively severe, non-asymptomatic case of COVID-19 earlier this season (effects of which may have lingered for quite some time).
And that led to something else also quite rare on public display, a smile! Trivial, sure. But still lovely to see.
Tuchel was all smiles as well, seeing his big call of starting the 21-year-old as a sort of false-9 hybrid striker in the center of the attack, in-between Callum Hudson-Odoi and Timo Werner, pay off with a match-winning performance and a direct hand (well, foot) in both goals.
“I am very happy with his performance. There is no doubt about his quality, talent and character. He needs to adapt to the Premier League and to the club where we play to win every game and the highest standards are normal.
“This kind of mentality but I think he did it today excellently, he got in good positions and used his potential to accelerate our game and to increase the touches in the box responsible for assists, to take responsibility to finish himself. This is what we want from him.”
-Thomas Tuchel; source: Football.London
While fortunately it hasn’t been a big focus — no shortage of other drama at Chelsea, as usual! — Havertz’s first season in England has been massively underwhelming it has to be said, with few glimpses of his billing as a generational talent.
Good games against lower division opponents in domestic cups aside, including the hat-trick against Barnsley way back at the start of the season, Havertz has not been able to impose himself on games, looking a step slow and a touch frail and tentative at times, even. His bout with the coronavirus certainly hasn’t made any of the usual issues often seen in young players trying to adapt to new countries, leagues, and environs any easier. The pressures of narratives and transfer fees rarely take pity on extenuating circumstances.
But as Havertz says, a performance like this can jumpstart a player’s confidence and self-belief. And that’s something we can all hope to see.
“It was good for me and I gave my best. The first seven months were not easy for me but you have to keep working and I did that. So I’m very happy, but of course it was my first match after injury. I think it was a good performance from me, but you cannot say this after one performance.
“You have to be strong in the next few matches as well and that’s my goal. I will try to improve, I will try to give my best in the next few weeks and then I hope it will continue like that.
“I played like a false nine, I had the freedom to go everywhere I wanted to go, and I think that’s good for me. I like to have freedom on the pitch. I think I was lucky to score a goal but I’m very happy with the performance, not only from me but the whole group. I think we can do a lot better than today, but the result was a win so of course we’re very happy with it.”
-Kai Havertz; source: Chelsea FC
Welcome to the Premier League, Kai Havertz! Let’s keep winning!