The German midfielder is keen to play for the Premier League club.
There is a serene excitement in the air among Chelsea fans for the upcoming season. With the swift signings of Hakim Ziyech and Timo Werner, the Blues have shown eagerness to fight with the likes of Liverpool, Manchester City, Real Madrid and other European clubs in the transfer market. Roman Abramovich is adamant that he wants to build another superstar team that can lay their hands on the elusive Champions League, that is why they are now running after German sensation, Kai Havertz.
The Bayer Leverkusen captain is one of the most coveted youngsters in world football alongside Jadon Sancho and in normal circumstances, there would be a flurry of offers for him from top European clubs. But due to this pandemic, only Chelsea have shown that eagerness to break the bank for the 21-year-old player.
Havertz caught the eye for the first time in 2018-19 season scoring 17 goals in the Bundesliga by breaking the record of being the most prolific teenager in the history of the league. Leverkusen’s then manager, Heiko Herrlich used Havertz as a no.10 in a conventional 4-2-3-1 formation where unlike the other attacking midfielders, his role was not to create chances, that work was shouldered by his former teammate Julian Brandt on the left flank.
Havertz was more of a supporting striker who you would make late intelligent runs inside the penalty area and manoeuvre space between the opposition centre backs. Herrlich never ventured into his creative side as he wanted the youngster to score goals consistently.
But as Herrlich was sacked in December 2018, new manager Peter Bosz did not tinker much with the German’s position, but his unconventional 3-4-2-1 meant that Havertz was pushed towards the right side where he could cut into his stronger left foot and have a go at the goal. His goals were a testament to the fact that he is extremely intelligent and has great tactical awareness of when to make the runs and where to meet the crosses from his teammates on the flanks- Karim Bellarabi, Julian Brandt and Leon Bailey.
Playing as a conventional attacking midfielder
Havertz shared great chemistry with his teammates and even at that tender age, he had that leadership aura in him. While the whole world was mesmerised with his goal-scoring prowess, there was a lot left in his tank. Leverkusen’s primary creator, Brandt left the club to join Borussia Dortmund and then the onus of creating chances was on Havertz’s shoulders.
But the job was even more difficult because he had to create chances for others and still maintain his outstanding goalscoring ratio. Therefore the evolution in his play was not so easy or magical. The 21-year-old struggled to fulfil either of the two jobs, as he could only manage three goals and one assist till January. His poor form led to a lot of criticism as some pointed out his focus was derailed with top clubs monitoring him.
Although things started changing and this was again a proof of the mental strength of Kai Havertz. He picked himself up and scored a great chipped finish, helping his side to a 4-1 win away at Paderborn in mid-January. Following that match, he scored some headed goals, unleashing another weapon from his illustrious arsenal.
While January was all about him finding his form, February was the month of evolution for the young German as he started realising his creative side as a player. In a Bundesliga match against Augsburg, Havertz invited pressure from the defenders as he led a counter, with nowhere to go, he calmly guides the ball onto the path of Moussa Diaby who was running in space and eventually opened the scoring.
The creative charge continued even in the coming matches as Havertz found options around him to lay the final ball other than just taking a shot at every given opportunity. He was thinking more like a conventional no.10.
Therefore if Frank Lampard wants, he can use the German sensation as his primary number 10 who can contribute to the buildups and also exploit half-spaces in the opponent’s final third. However, Lampard will have to sacrifice the development of Mason Mount and Ruben Loftus-Cheek but attacking midfield is an area where Havertz likes to feature.
Later last season when both Kevin Volland and Lucas Alario where injured, Peter Bosz used Havertz upfront in a false nine role. Albeit accidentally, but it evolved him as a player, adding feathers to his already glorious cap of versatility.
In those 10 matches of playing up front, the youngster scored eight goals and mustered two assists across all competitions. This time he amalgamated his creative skills and his tactical intelligence as a player to find openings in the opposition’s final third. But all along, one thing was common throughout that was his calm and composed finish. Be it arriving late in the box or making a 50-yard dash Havertz, would always challenge the goalkeepers with his venomous shots and more often got the better of them.
Playing as a false nine taught him to think as a forward and carry out responsibilities accordingly. He always had the knack of scoring goals but a forward’s duties do not end there, Havertz for the first time held up the play, allowing his wingers time to dart into the opposition half. He finished the season with 12 goals and six assists from his 30 league games and gained a whole new level of experience of playing in different positions and understanding the responsibilities of every role.
Once again, the Leverkusen star provides Lampard with another option of playing him up front. Havertz is great with both feet and is considerably strong and good in the air, so he can hold the ball up if needed. He has also shown signs of facilitating wingers and midfielders into the game during the attacking buildup. However, once again the German comes in the path of highly rated Tammy Abraham and newly signed Timo Werner. It will be difficult for Lampard to start Havertz ahead of someone like Werner who joined the club this summer. A two-striker formation can be good for both players but it is unlikely that Lampard will change his whole system just to fit one playver.
Playing on the right flank
While the six assists may still sound average but the numbers don’t tell the whole story. Havertz doubled his tally of key passes per 90 from 1.1 to 2.3 as his shot-creating actions per 90 also saw a rise from 3.4 to 4.3, which was seventh-best in Germany. Kai Havertz has explored several roles and mastered most of them to succeed at the elite level. But still, he won’t be a clear fit at Chelsea, there will be a lot of permutations and combinations that Frank Lampard may have to adapt.
There is one position where he can still play, that is on the right flank. Havertz has earlier featured as a right-winger and if Lampard gives him the license to cut inside on his stronger left foot and take shots, he can be a great fit at Stamford Bridge.
However, another one of their new additions, Hakim Ziyech also excels from the right side of the pitch and despite being capable of playing as a number 10, he often drifts wide on the right. Therefore a possibility of conflict may well be on the cards. But if Lampard can use Ziyech centrally and keep harmony between him and Havertz, it will great for the Blues. The attack will have the creative panache of Ziyech, the guile of Werner/Tammy and the versatility of Havertz.
Amid all this conundrum there is this rare thing of how he gives so much option to a manager with his versatile attacking panache. Proving why most of the European teams are willing to pounce on him and build a team around him.
But considering Chelsea’s current condition, the Blues have made some great signings in Werner and Ziyech and now they require reinforcements on the other side of the pitch. If the Blues want to provide Lampard will all the amenities to create a team that can challenge in Europe in coming seasons then they need to find solutions at the back, a proper left-back, a centre back and even a replacement for Kepa Arrizabalaga who has been a shadow of himself. Skipping Havertz in this transfer window will free up a lot of funds for the Blues which in return can facilitate their defensive reinforcements.