Kai Havertz is adept at soccer so he doesn’t come out well. There are a lot of expert referees who consider it the next big thing in football. Too many wise old presidents have guided this young German to greatness even before he became one of the Bundesliga best players.
There are no question marks about his position, just the circumstances of his first months in England. The Covid-19 bout that hindered his adaptation to life in a new country amid an unusually demanding timetable. The constant search for his best role at Chelsea as he deals with the pressure of his £ 62m transfer – the first transfer of his professional career.
These are all legitimate reasons for Havertz’s need for time. But this does not solve the problems facing Frank Lampard as he proceeds to pick his next team after successive defeats.
Havertz delivered another disappointing performance as Chelsea followed up their 1-0 defeat at Everton at the weekend, 2–1 at Wolverhampton in Molino. An unbeaten run of 17 matches looks like a long time ago now. Hopes of winning the title in a few days dwindled.
He was no longer on the field when winner Pedro Neto entered, and was substituted again, just as he had been in each of his previous four matches in the Premier League. It was an easy decision on the occasion, just minutes after Wolverhampton tied at the start of the tide.
Havertz’s final contribution was to be defeated by the apparently more confident Daniel Bodens, his shoulders sagging as it happened. It was a really trivial moment in the game, but it just added to the feeling that fun is something other players enjoy at the moment.
In the first half, Kurt Zuma and Timo Werner hit two shots each. Opportunities were created by Ben Chilwell, Mason Mount, Christian Pulisic, Olivier Giroud, and even N’Golo Kante.
When Reese James fired an attempt in the first minute of the second half, it meant that goalkeeper Edward Mendy and full back Thiago Silva and Havertz were not directly involved in Chelsea’s opportunity. The man who replaced him, Matteo Kovacic immediately fired two shots within 12 minutes of his coming. He lacked the same dynamic.
Having found himself in the top three at Everton, Havertz is back in a deeper role on Tuesday night, in what many believe is his favorite position to the right of midfield.
But it was not immediately clear what he would offer the team there. His work was tidy enough but there was little hint of an end product in the final third and he was playing too far on the field to really help support Kante in controlling the counterattack.
Kante and Mount were among seven Chelsea players to have treated. It was not. He was also not among the seven who protested. Kovacic succeeded in both his hijab.
It is important to emphasize that it is not as if Havertz is not working, despite his weak gait. This simple style could attract critics as well as fans but the truth is that it covered more space than any other player on the field during the first half at Molino. This suffices to indicate that this is more about form than fitness and effectiveness than effort.
He is a player who still works where he fits on this team.
Lampard seems aware of this. He recently said, “Some of them are young players who are coming to play in the league for the first time and it obviously takes a little time.”
He appears ready to trust in talent – which is understandable given the big investment – and although he has changed a bit, Havertz could have few complaints in that regard.
He started his first seven Premier League matches this season as well as both of the first two matches in the UEFA Champions League. Coronavirus kept him out of the starting line-up throughout November and after recovering, he has now started each of his last five matches.
The plan so far has clearly been for Havertz to play in form.
It’s equally clear that it’s not working.
Chelsea fans know better than others that not every major signature is a success. This club has been discovered in the past when it was paying big bucks for the superstar names only to discover that they had just reached the point of dramatic contraction in shape.
this is different. Havertz is 21 years old but has more than enough potential. It is an investment that is likely to reward in the long run. The challenge facing Lampard is the best way to deal with it now.
Havertz will be needed due to the hectic schedule, but possibly a rotation option for the foreseeable future. He and Mount have been used together in midfield three times in victories over Burnley and Leeds, but that left Chelsea looking a little weak this time.
For the London derby against West Ham and Arsenal, as well as a visit to Aston Villa over the holidays, the return of the double pivot in midfield may make more sense to help stop the counter-attacks. Chelsea will need to be totally strong when the ball is not in the next home game against Manchester City as well. It will be a test time.
Lampard needs to play these matches right if he is to take advantage of what appears to be an excellent league that is wide open. Striking a balance between the long and the short term will be crucial.
What this means for German youth is not yet clear.
Speaking to Typhoon Korkot, the former manager of Havertz at Bayer Leverkusen, he made an interesting point about the mentality he believes sets the player apart from the rest.
“I don’t know how he feels at home, but he doesn’t show it, and this is an important quality in a great player if you want to be one of the best,” Korkut said. Sky Sports.
“If I see him play he will never show his feelings. You can’t see he’s under pressure. I don’t know if he translates properly into English but he’s always like a snowman. It doesn’t matter. He was 17 and I could put him in the biggest games.
“This is perhaps the most special thing about him, his mental strength.
“He has incredible mental strength.”
He will need this mental strength to take what may be the biggest test of his career to date as he faces questions about his role on a team expected to hand awards.
Kai Havertz is adept at soccer so he doesn’t come out well. But for Frank Lampard and Chelsea, the Kai Havertz scene couldn’t come soon enough.
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