There is no question mark about his attitude, only the circumstances of his first months in England. The Covid-19 fight that has hampered his adjustment to life in a new country amid an unusually demanding schedule. The search continues for his best role at Chelsea as he faces the pressure of a £ 62million move – the first transfer of his professional career.
These are all legitimate reasons Havertz needs time. But that doesn’t solve the problems Frank Lampard faces as he sets out to pick his next team after back-to-back losses.
Havertz put in another disappointing performance as Chelsea followed their 1-0 weekend loss to Everton with a 2-1 setback to Wolves at Molineux. The 17-game unbeaten streak seems like a long time ago now. Title hopes were dashed within days.
He was no longer on the pitch when winner Pedro Neto entered, replaced again, as he had been in each of his previous four Premier League starts. It was an easy decision on the occasion, minutes after Wolves’ equalizer with the tide starting to turn.
Havertz’s final contribution had to be beefed up by Daniel Podence, more confident on the outside, his shoulders slumping as it happened. It was a trivial moment in the game, really, but it only added to the feeling that fun is something other players are having right now.
In the first half, Kurt Zouma and Timo Werner managed two shots each. The chances were created by Ben Chilwell, Mason Mount, Christian Pulisic, Olivier Giroud and even N’Golo Kante.
When Reece James threw an attempt in the first minute of the second half it meant that only goalkeeper Edouard Mendy, center-back Thiago Silva and Havertz had not been directly involved in a chance at Chelsea. The man who replaced him, Mateo Kovacic, quickly fired two shots within 12 minutes of his arrival. It just lacked that same dynamism.
Having found himself in the top three at Everton, Havertz was back in a deeper role on Tuesday night, in what many believe to be his privileged position to the right of a midfielder three.
But what he brings to the team there isn’t immediately obvious. His work was pretty neat but there was little hint of a final product in the final third and he was playing too far down the field to really help Kante control the counterattacks.
Kante and Mount were among seven Chelsea players to tackle. He was not. He was also not among the seven to make an interception. Kovacic managed both in his cameo.
It’s important to stress that it’s not like Havertz isn’t working, despite his languid gait. This effortless style can draw critics as well as admirers, but the truth is he covered more ground than any other player on the pitch during the first half at Molineux. This is enough to suggest that it is more form than fitness, efficiency than effort.
He is a player who always works for him in this team.
Lampard seems aware of this. “Some of them are young players who are coming to play in this league for the first time and clearly need a little time,” he said recently.
He seems ready to trust talent – which is understandable given the hefty investment – and while a bit offbeat Havertz may have few complaints in this regard.
He has started the first seven Premier League games of the season as well as each of the first two Champions League games. Coronavirus kept him out of the starting lineup throughout November and after being released he has now started each of the last five games.
Clearly the plan so far has been to get Havertz in shape.
It is also clear that it does not work.
Chelsea supporters know better than anyone that not all major signings are successful. This is a club that have been surprised in the past by paying big bucks for superstar names only to find they had just gotten to the point of a dramatic downturn in form.
This is different. Havertz is 21 but has more than potential. It is an investment that can pay off in the longer term. The challenge for Lampard is how to best manage it now.
Havertz will be needed given the busy schedule, but it may be as a rotation option for the foreseeable future. He and Mount had been used together in a midfield three in wins over Burnley and Leeds, but that left Chelsea a bit vulnerable this time around.
For the London derbies against West Ham and Arsenal, as well as visiting Aston Villa over the holiday season, the return of the double pivot to midfield may make more sense to help stop the counterattack. . Chelsea will need to be just as strong when they don’t have the ball in the next home game against Manchester City. It will be a testing period.
Lampard must succeed in these games if he is to profit from what appears to be a widely open Premier League. The balance between the long and the short term will be crucial.
What this means for the young German remains to be seen.
Speaking to Tayfun Korkut, Havertz’s former manager at Bayer Leverkusen, he made an interesting point about the mentality that he says sets the player apart from others.
“I don’t know what he feels like on the inside but he doesn’t show it and that’s an important quality in a great player if you want to be one of the best,” Korkut said. Sky Sports.
“If you see him play, he’ll never show any emotions. You can’t see he’s under pressure. I don’t know if this translates correctly in English but he’s still like an ice man. It does not matter. He was 17 and I could put him in the bigger games.
“This is perhaps the most special thing about him, his mental power.
“He has incredible mental power. ”
He’ll need that mental toughness to get through what is perhaps the biggest test of his career as he faces questions about his role on a team that is expected to deliver trophies.
Kai Havertz is too good at football not to be good. But, for Frank Lampard and for Chelsea, the sight of Kai Havertz on track cannot come soon enough.