Premier League • England

Kai Havertz compared to Man Utd great as best Arsenal position is nailed by purring Liverpool legend

Kai Havertz celebrates an Arsenal goal in the Champions League with Tomiyasu, Bukayo Saka and Gabriel Martinelli

Kai Havertz celebrates an Arsenal goal with Tomiyasu, Bukayo Saka and Gabriel Martinelli

Kai Havertz is well on track to prove his doubters wrong with Mikel Arteta describing the German’s performance in the 6-0 Champions League trouncing as “tremendous” and pundit Michael Owen comparing the player to one of a recent Manchester United great.

The Gunners cruised into the Champions League knockout stages with a game to spare after romping past Lens at Emirates Stadium, a match made significant by the fact Arsenal had six different scorers on the night. That means Arteta’s side qualify for the round of 32 with a match to spare, with the 6-0 destruction their fourth win in five games.

Any doubts Arsenal might struggle on their return to the competition have been emphatically swept away. And as Paul Merson beamed on Sky Sports “no one will want to face them in the next round”.

Merson certainly has a point, with the Gunners crushing an opponent who had inflicted their only defeat in the UCL so far.

The win was set up by Havertz, who opened the scoring after 13 minutes and was generally brilliant all evening.

The strike was his second in as many games, coming just days after his crucial winner at Brentford which fired the Gunners to the top of the Premier League table.

His two recent displays finally illustrate exactly what Arteta saw in Havertz and why he was convinced to give Chelsea such a chunk of cash for a player, who despite going down in legend for scoring their Champions League final winning goal in 2021, had largely struggled at Stamford Bridge.

Following a difficult start to life with the Gunners, critics for Havertz rang loud, with one report claiming Edu was already looking to sell him.

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Kai Havertz compared to Man Utd old boy Dimitar Berbatov

Now Michael Owen has become one of the first pundits to break rank and shower Havertz with praise, though admitted he was still unsure of his best position.

“It’s a bit of a conundrum with him, I don’t think he scores enough goals to be a centre-forward, has he got the pace to be a wide man? Maybe ghosts in and plays inside a little bit, there’s no doubt about his talent,” Owen stated.

“He’s got a lovely touch, a lovely way about him. He reminds me a bit of [Dimitar] Berbatov, the way he takes the ball and his lovely touch. There’s definitely a brilliant player in there.”

Having shone brightly now in his last two games, it seems the debate may well be over as to Havertz’s best role.

Bought as a more attack-minded replacement for Granit Xhaka, Havertz has been operating on the left of a midfield three for Arsenal this season.

Having initially taken time to adjust, it seems the position is now his to lose and Arteta will be hopeful that this is just the start for his big-money signing.

Arteta nails German’s best position for Arsenal

Reflecting on his performance after the game, Arteta admitted Havertz is now starting to show his true colours.

Asked if he was happy with his display against Lens, Arteta crowed: “Yes, scoring goals, playing well, participating in wins; those are positive attributes.

“You’ve seen the reception of his teammates, the crowd singing his name and being with him in every positive action that he had, those are all good things that are going to help him to show why he’s a tremendous player.”

Asked if a midfield three was now his, and Arsenal’s favoured position, Arteta appeared to confirm that’s where he sees the German – who can also operate as a false No 9 or a No 10 – staying.

However, as he was keen to stress, Arsenal are also capable of playing with different systems depending on the opponent.

“Well, I think we have different options, and in relation to the opponents we are facing, we have. Today, we were really attacking because we played with Alex [Zinchenko] as well in the backline, and we needed it because we wanted to approach the game to win it, and be very dominant from the beginning, and I think we have achieved that.”

Arteta was also happy to beat an opponent who had seen them off 2-1 back in October.

“It was the feeling of what we learnt with that defeat. Defeats give you a lot of things to think about and take the learnings from that.

“Credit to them, they are a really good side and they’re really well coached, they make life very difficult, but today we were really effective.”

Arsenal now turn attention back towards the Premier League with a match at home to Wolves on Saturday before travelling to face Luton on Tuesday December 5 and then Aston Villa on Saturday December 9.

Their Champions League group campaign concludes with what is now a dead-rubber against PSV on Tuesday December 12 with their opponents already also guaranteed runners-up spot in Group B.

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