Kai Havertz: £70 million burning problem at Arsenal?

From being touted as the ‘worst signing’ of the summer window, Kai Havertz has already proven his worth with some spectacular performances.

A lot of eyebrows were raised when David Ornstein tweeted about Arsenal’s interest in signing Kai Havertz from Chelsea. Given the season the Blues had prior to the window and mainly the German’s performances, some Arsenal fans question this transfer business.

Sure enough, some should get the benefit of the doubt, considering Havertz was not an exceptional performer at Chelsea. But these are the same fans who doubted Jorginho when he arrived six months prior to the German. The Italian international has proven his worth in Mikel Arteta’s midfield, and Havertz is now doing the same at the Emirates.

One big problem when bringing two ex-Chelsea players was the chequered history of stars who crossed the London divide. Only a few have made their mark, with Arsenal garnering the reputation of taking away Chelsea’s ‘rejects’. However, that equation certainly changed when they signed Havertz, a 24-year-old German international attacker, paying around £70 million to land him.

As soon as he arrived, pundits started questioning Arsenal’s wisdom of spending a hefty amount on a player who they believed had not proven his worth at Chelsea. They went about criticising the player’s character and style of play, calling him ‘lazy’ and clearly ignoring the fact that the same player won Chelsea the Champions League with his goal a few years prior.

Then, the debate about Havertz’s best position surged as the media needed more patience in waiting and understanding his exact role under Arteta. In truth, the Spaniard suggested Havertz could play in a midfield role, and with Granit Xhaka leaving in the summer, they did their math and declared the German as the Swiss midfielder’s successor.

Now, Havertz was clearly not a midfielder before, and many began doubting whether he could replicate what Xhaka could do. Some would also go on to cite Xhaka’s goal contribution from last season while conveniently ignoring the fact that he only managed a prolific campaign once during his extended stay at the Emirates.

Either way, the big talking point arrived some four or five games into the season when The Athletic ran an article pointing out who were the best and worst signings of the summer. The parameters for choosing was a poll from many agents in football, who cited the business side of things, while many jumped on it for likes and clickbait to follow through and target the 24-year-old.

Alternatively, the media were trying to find a scapegoat in Arsenal’s summer business, as they did not have many following a stellar season under Arteta. In comes Havertz, and they have one readymade target to talk and criticise. But the 24-year-old has rightly ignored all the critics to put his head down and keep performing at his best level possible.

Kai Havertz: from ‘worst signing’ to a top performer

Those critics have also conveniently ignored the fact that Arteta started playing Havertz in midfield, a position he had never played before, barring a few instances. For Bayer Leverkusen, he was a second striker or a No.10 of sorts while also operating on the wide right.

At Chelsea, he was used as a No.9 for the last two seasons, and while that team underperformed, Havertz kept scoring the goals. Even at Arsenal, he excelled in that midfield role, and one should remember that soon after he started performing well, the Gunners fans have not missed Thomas Partey much.

Yet, someone like Craig Burley on ESPN went on a rant calling Havertz a ‘£70 million burning problem’ at Arsenal and kept criticising him. The German also indicated that he did not know the exact position he liked to play, which attracted more criticism from pundits and the media alike.

What Arteta has done is use Havertz to his strengths and allow the player the time and space to excel in those many roles. He has done well in midfield, in the attack and as a hybrid player, something of a Swiss army knife.

Finding a player of that level and quality in this market is challenging, as only a few can comfortably slot into the role of a combative midfielder as well as a central striker. Havertz has not only excelled in those parts but is also making heads turn with his performances.

The German international has given Arteta a formidable option in his attack, as he can adjust it depending on the game state. Should Havertz keep performing at this level, soon enough, he will become an indispensable force to reckon with, and that is when many will feel like he is justifying the £70 million price tag instead of being a burning problem in Arteta’s pocket.

Havertz’s numbers are better than some top stars

Going back to that Athletic article about the best and worst signings of the summer, it stated that James Maddison’s transfer to Tottenham was by far the best. The former Leicester City star started putting in brilliant performances after coming to North London and may have merited the tag then.

Right now, Havertz has the same number of goal contributions as the England international, although Maddison did miss a couple of months with an injury. In any case, Havertz has been performing better than many other seasoned Premier League stars, including Marcus Rashford from Manchester United.

Most recently against Sheffield United, he added another goal and assist to his name, taking his tally to ten direct goal contributions in this Premier League season. With that, he surpassed the likes of Bernardo Silva, Jeremy Doku, Dominik Szoboszlai, Bruno Fernandez, Luis Diaz, and Moussa Diaby. Not bad for the ‘worst signing’ of the summer.

Astonishingly, Havertz has a better record than those players, especially Doku, Fernandes and Szoboszlai. The latter was directly compared to the German in the summer, with the Liverpool star naturally receiving all the praise in the world despite the Reds spending a similar fee to what Arsenal paid Chelsea.

Havertz also has more non-penalty goals than Cole Palmer and Rashford and has already surpassed his processor Xhaka’s tally last season. There is a lot more to come from Havertz this season, as he is one of Arteta’s underrated weapons in the title race and the Champions League.

Even the fans singing ‘£60 Million Down the Drain, Kai Havertz Scores Again’ are now using this song as a satire or in a sarcastic way. He has excelled and will keep getting better, as the truth is that Arsenal have a real weapon for the money they paid to Chelsea, while the real fans with “ball knowledge” are very much surprised that their club has a player like Havertz in their squad.

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