Premier League • England

Arsenal exclusive: Kai Havertz positional myth clarified with Mikel Arteta ready to correct ‘mess’ Chelsea made

Mikel Arteta has brought Kai Havertz to Arsenal from Chelsea

Mikel Arteta has brought Kai Havertz to Arsenal from Chelsea

How Mikel Arteta plans to use Kai Havertz in the Arsenal line up has been clarified with the German likely to play in a far deeper role for the Gunners than he did at Chelsea, according to Charles Watts.

The Gunners’ summer transfer business is expected really kick into gear shortly with deals for Jurrien Timber and Declan Rice on the verge of being formally announced.

Both players have passed medicals and agreed terms, with fees also agreed with their respective clubs. To that end, it is not unusual for Arsenal to delay announcements, as seen recently by contract extension agreements with William Saliba and Bukayo Saka.

However, the first signing of the window was completed back on 28 June, when Havertz moved across London from Chelsea.

The Gunners have paid their London rivals a fee of £65m, though questions have already been raised over why Havertz was targeted.

Indeed, the Blues never really saw Havertz at his best. Often played as a central striker, he scored just 32 times in 139 games.

And while he did score their winner in the Champions League final, he leaves Stamford Bridge with question marks over his best position.

Arteta, though, loves a challenge. And rather than see Havertz as striker, Watts has told TEAMtalk why he expects him to operate in a deeper role and potentially as an attack-minded replacement for Granit Xhaka.

“I think they’re seeing him as a number eight.” Watts said. “In the announcement statement Mikel called him a midfielder or said he’s going to strengthen the midfield, which I think was very, very telling.

“He obviously brings a lot of versatility to the forward line so it gives options if needed. He can play from the right, he can play as a nine which could allow Jesus to play on the right and Saka could get a bit of rest, it gives him that option. But I think they’re seeing him as a direct replacement for Granit Xhaka.”

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Arteta ready to tweak Havertz role for Arsenal

Speaking more about how he expects Havertz to play, Watts insists Arteta is thinking of a slightly different midfield set-up.

“In that role [No 8], it might be that Mikel’s got a bit of a tweak to the system on his mind. So it’s not a case of playing like for like like Xhaka did in that system we all became accustomed to last year and maybe this is the next kind of evolution of Arsenal under Arteta. And that’s what Rice and Havertz are going to bring. We’re going to see a slightly different midfield set up to what we’ve seen before. But I think Mikel sees him in that left eight role alongside [Martin] Odegaard. Somebody who can make runs into the box.

“When he was so good at Leverkusen, he wasn’t playing as the out and out frontman, he was playing deeper. And I think that’s how Mikel sees him; rotating with Odegaard in almost like a number 10 role. But more in the eight role, getting into the box late.

“Granit Xhaka scored nine goals last season. And that’s a lot. That’s a good number. And that’s what you’re going to be wanting to see Havertz get. It’s a really intriguing signing…

“And for me, it’s obvious he underwhelmed at Chelsea, but he stepped up in big moments. He’s got a huge amount of ability, and technically very, very good. Again, he ticks all the boxes for Mikel Arteta. I just get the impression that Arteta is going to find another gear out of Kai Havertz, that’s going to be really, really exciting for Arsenal next season. He’s 24, he’s got so much to give.

“Within the club, I think they see it as a coup. I definitely don’t think they view it as a cast off. They saw an opportunity to do a really good piece of business and they’re very, very, very happy with it.”

Chelsea made a mess of Havertz

Discussing how Havertz fared at Chelsea, Watts insists Arsenal fans will need to overlook the ‘mess’ Chelsea made of his time in west London.

“I’m kind of taking a bit of a step back approach to it,” he added. “I think it’s hard because I just can’t quite shake off the Havertz I’ve seen play for Chelsea. But Chelsea have been such a mess while he’s been there. And he’s had Lampard as his manager twice. And he’s coming in to work with, in my opinion, one of most exciting young managers in football who can, as shown by what he’s done with Bukayo Saka, Martinelli, what he’s done with Odegaard, since he’s arrived, get these players to new levels, to hit new heights and Kai Havertz has got every single ingredient to be a top level player.

“With the right manager getting the best out of him, I think he can go on and achieve huge things. So while I can’t quite shake off what he did at Chelsea, I can understand why perhaps it was not the easiest club to really fulfill your potential. He’s going to the perfect club where he can fulfill that potential.

“And he’s going to go and work under the perfect manager who can get that out of him. So I’m excited about it. I think he’s going to surprise a lot of people this season. It might not be immediate, it might take a little time to adjust to what Mikel Arteta wants from him.

“Most players who signed for Arsenal say that it takes a while to understand what Arteta wants. But I think in the long term, I think he’s going to prove to be a really, really smart piece of business for Arsenal.”

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