Kai Havertz brings a much-needed positional dilemma for Mikel Arteta

Kai Havertz brings the versatility in attack Mikel Arteta wanted, who might even transform the German into a quality midfield left-eight at Arsenal.

Arsenal wanted Kai Havertz, the German was keen on the move, and Chelsea wanted to sell. An agreement over a fee was the only thing missing and the Gunners wasted no time to get a deal in place. The North Londoners announced the capture of their new £65 million signing late on Wednesday. And with him, they have added a new layer to their attacking setup.

Nobody seems to be sure about Havertz’s exact position on the pitch. His usage as a second striker at Bayer Leverkusen produced plenty of output, which is why Chelsea decided to spend a potential £90 million into securing the German.

Frank Lampard seemed content with using Havertz in the second striker role behind Timo Werner, which produced mixed results. He did score that all important goal in the UEFA Champions League final, which incidentally came off a typical run in behind that Havertz has in his locker.

Even under Thomas Tuchel, before and after winning the Champions League victory, Chelsea were using Havertz rather properly, albeit without producing consistent results. In what was a disastrous last season in a Blue shirt, the German was predominantly used as a central striker due to lack of other options.

So when Arsenal registered an interest, the supporters gave out a mixed reaction. The ‘Twitter Tacticos’ were pleased with their assessement. But nobody has been able to pinpoint his exact position yet. Meanwhile, few sections had expressed their displeasure for several reasons, one being Havertz’s connections to Chelsea and the £65 million price tag.

As we deep dive into what Havertz brings to this Arsenal side, Arteta’s comments upon his official announcement caught the eye. The Gunners boss said, “Kai is a player of top quality. He has great versatility and is an intelligent player. He will bring a huge amount of extra strength to our midfield and variety to our play.

So the ‘midfield’ part of it makes some things clear and opens up a world of possibilities on how Arteta wants to use Havertz. However, there is more to the German than getting restricted to a single position in this fluid Arsenal side. So we dwell into the 24-year-old’s usage and what this signing means for the Gunners and their plans.

Why did Arsenal sign Kai Havertz?

Gabriel Jesus was a transformative signing, but what he lacks is some bit of presence inside the box. The Brazilian likes to come into deep positions to recieve the balls, and at times leaves a gaping hole in the No.9 role. The presence of Bukayo Saka and Gabriel Martinelli allows to negate this problem to an extent. But maybe the Gunners needed another box presence.

What they lacked is somenone to make the runs in behind defences, and there have been a few notable strikers that were mentioned as potential targets. Havertz’s name certainly took 90% of the fanbase by surprise, only to realise that Arteta may have a plan to solve that burgeoning problem after all.

Havertz is a 24-year-old, established German international with tremendous experience in the Premier League and Champions League. One does not find such players very often in the market, and Arsenal took the opportunity on the attacker.

Sure, they are paying a £65 million fee, which some might argue is over the top. But nobody gets around signing established internationals for anything less these days and Havertz is not a bad player by any margin. He might have had the chance to play for Real Madrid and Bayern Munich, but wanted to stay in London and England.

Arsenal are incidentally the only Champions League team from London next season, and became the obvious choice for Havertz. Under Arteta, they also boast one of the best projects not only in England but the entire continent, possibly only behind one or two clubs.

Hence, there is a newfound pull to this Arsenal side as all players are keen on joining them. The project also promises plenty of opportunities to win trophies and challenging for the biggest honours including the Champions League.

So without wasting much time deliberating the fee over Chelsea, Arsenal readily paid the price to get the deal over the line. Havertz brings something missing from this team, and there is total confidence Arteta can get the best out of him, which Chelsea couldn’t.

Left-eight? central striker? Where would Havertz play?

Going back to the Arteta ‘midfield’ comment, nobody can be dead sure that is where he will play. For all the knowledge ‘experts’ and ‘tacticos’ possess, nobody envisaged the season that Granit Xhaka had. Before the start of the previous campaign, hardly anybody envisaged the 4-3-3 Arteta deployed, as many where thinking about a Thomas Partey-Xhaka midfield double pivot.

The thing with Xhaka is his physical profile, where the eye test fails to show he can score goals like he did. The Swiss midfielder’s offensive stats masked his other important qualities like blocking the space off the ball, winning duels, ball progression and press evasion.

Those are Xhaka’s most important qualities, while scoring and arriving in the box are only bonuses achieved through Arteta’s coaching. There is a general consensus due to the manager’s ‘midfield’ comment has pointed towards Havertz playing in Xhaka’s role on the left side of the midfield three.

For 65% of his time at Chelsea he was a centre-forward, 34% (most) of his time at Bayer Leverkusen, he was a second striker or the No.10. Havertz is capable of trodding on the right wing and also play a part in midfield. Thinking of the German as Xhaka’s immediate successor shows absolute laziness with analysis.

As a striker at Chelsea, he averaged 0.39 expected goals and 0.29 actual goals per 90 in the Premier League. Those make him the third best player at the club since arriving from Bayer Leverkusen, and nowhere near the output a team needs from its designated goalscorer.

Hence, Havertz playing as a central striker ahead of Jesus is not a good idea, but certainly a contingency option in specific games. He once said, “more or less a midfield player, but I like to go into the box”, which showcases his desire to make those runs reminicient with Xhaka from last season.

Havertz is a dark horse signing, who brings certain elements to the structure at Arsenal. He can provide many progressive passing routes and capable of making runs into the box to create an overload, which worked in the Gunners’ favour last season.

Havertz remains a hard worker and intense presser on the pitch, and does have qualities to play in that left midfield eight role. Yet, there is a general expectation to see Arteta fit him somehow and tweak the system to bring the best out of the German in terms of output.

Hence, we will have to wait until pre-season starts to guage Arteta’s ideas about Havertz. The fact is, he can play several attacking position and remains capable of producing high output under the right coach. So making claims on the left eight spot or the striker’s role could backfire on many.

Havertz brings an element of unpredictability.

The unpredictability that Havertz brings will have a positive impact on Arsenal. The German has these versatile qualities which fits the Gunners like a glove. He might not have the goals to show from his time at Chelsea, especially in that No.9 role. But the numbers are there with some of the notable strikers.

For instance, among players who predominantly played as strikers, Havertz created the third most chances in open play and third in passes into the area. He also boased the fourth best pass accuracy of strikers under pressure in the league.

In conclusion, Havertz has the mould to become a top draw striker under the right coach and system, Arteta has the luxury to use him differently if needed. His comments certainly point towards transforming Havertz into a midfielder, a claim that warrants merits with the capture of Declan Rice.

There are suspicions that Arteta could switch to a formation reminicient to how Pep Guardiola used in the latter part of the season. That could involve two holding midfielders and two attacking No.10s behind the front three. That style would suit a player like Havertz, but we will have to wait and see.

Arteta might end up surprising the many tactical minds out there with a drastic change of system. Before, he did not have the full set of players to play differently, but with Havertz, Rice and potentially Jurrien Timber he might have the legs to execute a new formation.

As for Havertz, he is a brilliant signing for Arsenal from many angles. he fits well tactically and gives logevity for the large investment the club have made. A coach like Arteta could make the German a world beater, and the 24-year-old has what it takes to become one in due course.

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