Football News

Why everyone at Arsenal loves Kai Havertz

By Mohamed Moallim

Published: 13:30, 5 March 2024

Arsenal boss Mikel Arteta has credited Kai Havertz as the driving force behind their current momentum.

A seven-game winning streak leaves the Gunners firmly in this season’s Premier League title race. With no fewer than 11 matches remaining, Arsenal are third and two points behind Liverpool, with Manchester City in between.

Winning aside, the North London club have been relentless in front of goal lately, scoring at least four goals across their last four league outings. Furthermore, they recently became just the second team in top-flight history to score five or more goals in three successive away league games after Burnley in September 1961. Arteta’s men are the first in English league football to win three successive away games by 5+ goals.

Arteta’s side finished runners-up in the Premier League last season — five points behind eventual champions City — despite spending a record 248 days on top. The following summer, veteran Swiss enforcer Granit Xhaka departed but Declan Rice and Havertz arrived for a combined £165m.

After running out 6-0 winners at Sheffield United, the Spanish tactician was asked to discuss his summer business and the momentum they are helping Arsenal gain.

“Yes, for sure [they are helping],” he said in his post-game press conference. “And picking the right players that could bring something that we didn’t have to the squad, and they’re certainly doing that and improving every single player, and the mechanisms and culture around the team. They are doing that, but there’s still the most [important] part of the season ahead, and we know that that’s the case.”

Havertz scored and created in that rout mentioned above, meaning he’s now both netted and assisted in each of his last two Premier League games for Arsenal, becoming the first player for the Gunners to do so in successive matches in the competition since Henrikh Mkhitaryan in February 2019.

As touched upon, the native of Aachen completed a £60m from Chelsea but until recently struggled to cement a regular starting berth. During three years at Stamford Bridge, the versatile German international played under four different managers across several different positions (notably the false nine role), giving him a return of 32 goals and 15 assists in 139 appearances.

Havertz’s most noteworthy moment undoubtedly came in the 2021 Champions League final when he scored the winning goal against Manchester City before doing the same in the forthcoming Club World Cup final, making him the first player to achieve this feat since Lionel Messi a decade earlier.

Since crossing the London divide, he’s featured in all of Arsenal’s opening 12 league matches, subsequently registering one goal. He would add three more goals in the Gunners’ next five outings before enduring a seven-game scoreless run (while missing their 2-0 loss against West Ham through suspension).

However, more recently, it’s three straight goal-scoring appearances, something he’s done once before in England’s top division. Indeed, there’s no doubt Havertz’s confidence is running high, and two metrics perfectly illustrate that. Between matchday one to 13, his shot conversion rate (inc. blocks) and conversion (ex. penalties) were 14.29 and 11.11%, respectively. From matchday 14 to now, Havertz’s shot conversion rate (inc. blocks) and conversion (ex. penalties) reads 22.73 and 27.78%, respectively.

Having completed the full 90 minutes on ten occasions (from 19 starting appearances), the former Bayer Leverkusen man doesn’t have a fixed position, something lauded by Arteta a few weeks ago.

“I love him,” he told a press conference. “I think we all love him a player, as a person, everything he brings to the team. There were two or three moments the other day [against West Ham] with 4, 5, 6-0, how he tracks people, how he is defending the box, how he’s attacking the box, the position that he’s constantly a threat in the opponent’s box and that’s what I really like. You ask him to play as a 9, as a right attacking midfielder, as a left attacking midfielder, at the base defending, and he does it. He’s just a joy to work with.”

Nothing highlighted the 24-year-old being a team player more than when Arteta used him as Arsenal’s centre-forward against Liverpool (3-1) and Newcastle United (4-1), two of the strongest pressing sides in the league. In those games, Rice and Jorginho gave Arsenal greater control from deep and added protection for the back four. But he also saw Havertz as the perfect out-ball, providing height and strong hold-up play that allowed his goalkeeper and defenders to pass the ball long with confidence, missing the opposition press.