Kai Havertz started every match in the English Premier League and Champions League with Chelsea this season

Kai Havertz’s start in the Premier League has so far been mixed.

The 21-year-old attacking midfielder has played 10 times – scoring once in the league and four times overall – since joining Chelsea for £ 71m from Bayer Leverkusen in September.

But with coach Frank Lampard already using the German international in so many positions, he raises questions about whether the Blues have figured out how to take advantage of a player who made goals and made abundantly at his former club.

So how can Chelsea, who Face Rennes in the Champions League Wednesday, get the best out of the undoubtedly talented guy?

Havertz’s many situations – where did Chelsea use it?

Lampard used Havertz as a right winger, the No. 10 and even – on one occasion against Liverpool – as the central striker.

None of these roles is foreign to the German.

“For me, the best position for me is as No. 10, but I can play on the right side or as a forward,” he said in September.

But the way he was often asked to play in those positions was different from when he excelled at Bayer Leverkusen and Germany.

Domestic season Pressures in the middle and defensive thirds * Pressures in the middle and defensive thirds * Third Defensive Touches * Touches in the discount box *
2019-20 (Leverkusen) 5.24 7.03 5.79 5.46
2020-21 (Chelsea) 3.28 10.32 8.03 1.97
* Every 90 minutes

This was evident from Havertz’s debut against Brighton on September 14, in Chelsea’s opening game in the Premier League, where he played on the right wing of Lampard’s 4-2-3-1 squad.

The areas Havertz occupied at the Amex Stadium made him ineffective, as he was often required to drop deep to the right side and attempt to build up play.

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This is better evidenced by his middle position (No. 29), which was, incredibly, deeper than N’Golo Kante (No. seven), who was playing midfield. This resulted in Havertz not touching the opponent’s box and failing to score.

An image showing the average center of Havertz in their season-opening match against Brighton was in their own half
Havertz’s average center (29) was in the season opener against Brighton in his own half

Most recently, Havertz played again outside the right wing at 3-4-3 in a 0-0 draw with Manchester United on October 24.

In theory, the system should have resulted in Havertz having more freedom to occupy senior positions. However, he has played in areas deeper than the field again, roughly averaging his position alongside wing backs Ben Chilwell (21) and Reese James (24).

Photo showing Havertz (29) playing the deepest three against Chelsea in a 0-0 draw with Manchester United.
Havertz (29) played Chelsea’s deepest three in a 0-0 draw with Manchester United

In fact, Havertz collected more assists (seven) from Chelsea center back Cesar Azpilicueta and Thiago Silva than midfielders (five). The German again failed to try to shoot or hit the ball in the opponent’s box.

Even as Havertz played 10th in the UEFA Champions League 0-0 draw with Sevilla on October 20, he had an early impact on the match in the final third, but as Chelsea’s frustration grew, he waned deeper and his influence waned.

Only 29% of his touches in the first 45 minutes were in his own half, but these increased to 45% in the second, and he failed again in the shot attempt, which is inconsistent with a player who scored 38 goals during his play. The last two seasons in Leverkusen.

Why is the deep role less effective for Havertz?

Interestingly, Havertz’s deeper positioning cost Chelsea a goal in October’s 3-3 draw at Southampton.

In an attempt to dribble through the pressure against the Saints, he was denied, allowing visitors to overtake Danny Ings – highlighting how he is not entirely comfortable receiving the ball in such deep areas under pressure.

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Domestic season Screenshots * Opportunities created * Expected goals * Expected assists *
2019-20 (Leverkusen) 2.13 1.94 0.33 0.23
2020-21 (Chelsea) 1.15 1.15 0.16 0.08
* Every 90 minutes

Chelsea’s third goal of the match provided the perfect contrast. They successfully played outside the pressure of Southampton but this time Havertz’s starting position was close to the halfway line and was able to sprint into the penalty area and sweep Timo Werner’s pass.

In Saturday’s 3–0 win over Burnley, Havertz lined up in a relatively unfamiliar role on the right side of a very attacking midfield, as he was again asked to contribute to a deeper play.

Nearly 50% of the touches were in his half of his stadium and nearly cost Chelsea again, with his intercepting pass leading to Ashley Barnes’ shot on a narrow range.

This time Havertz had one shot and two touches in the box.

How could Lampard get Leverkusen Havertz?

During his last two seasons at Leverkusen, Havertz’s offensive production took a big leap.

This was a result of his natural development curve as a young player, but also of the tactical responsibilities entrusted to him by his manager, Peter Boss, who had been looking to use Havertz’s finish and his ability to find a defensive pass in the final third.

Begins Objectives Helps Accurate for each goal / assist
2017-18 26 4 9 206
2018-19 40 20 7 130
2019-20 44 18 9 141

Whether playing as Number 10, right winger, or in his recent matches, as a liar nine, Havertz has always been given the freedom to stay in advanced areas of the field.

An image showing the right-wing Havertz center in his scoring appearance for Leverkusen in the Europa League semi-final against Inter Milan and his progress with the German club
Same role, different results: Havertz’s position on the right wing in his scoring appearances for Leverkusen in the Europa League quarter-final match in August against Inter Milan shows how far the role he played for them.

At Leverkusen, he averaged more defensive pressures in the final third, touches more in the opponent’s square and less in his defensive third than he has so far at Chelsea.

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He was also trying more shots and creating more chances, while his expected goal rate and assists numbers were higher, likely with the help of a supply line from midfielders Kerem Demirbai, Charles Aranjuez and Nadim Amiri.

This season some have questioned the Chelsea midfielders’ form – especially how far they have progressed with the ball. Can Lampard summon the likes of Kante, Matteo Kovacic and Jorginho to help unleash the potential of Havertz?

Another key to Havertz’s success at Leverkusen was surrounded by fast players.

Key Passes * Progressive passes *
Demerbai (Leverkusen) 2019-20 2.34 5.83
Emiri (Leverkusen) 2019-20 2.62 4.66
Aranjuez (Leverkusen) 2019-20 0.98 7.32
Kante (Chelsea) 2020-21 0.14 2.17
Kovacic (Chelsea) 2020-21 0 6.67
Jorginho (Chelsea) 2020-21 1.22 4.08
* Every 90 minutesMaster Pass = A pass that results in a shot without scoringThe Progressive Pass = the pass that advances the play

The big men helped Moussa Diaby, Karim Belarbi and Lyon Bailey 11 of the 18 goals that Havertz scored last season and returned the favor, providing four of his nine assists as a trio.

This is where some hope for Chelsea is emerging. Havertz scored four goals and three assists when he played for Chelsea speedster Callum Hudson-Odoi or Christian Pulisic, although three of those goals came against Barnsley in the Carabao Cup.

If Lampard can find the right combination of midfielders and forwards, Chelsea can hope to see the Bundesliga version of Havertz shine for them this season.

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