Kai Havertz: From zero to hero with Arsenal

How Kai Havertz revived his career & became a key piece in Arsenal's title run 🚀

“Tsamina mina, eh, eh, waka waka, eh, eh, 60 million down the drain, Kai Havertz scores again.” 🎵 

Arsenal fans sure love to remind us how wrong we all were about Kai Havertz.

Their latest opportunity to sing what may be the world’s catchiest tune was on Saturday, when Havertz scored his 12th league goal of the season in Arsenal’s 3-2 North London Derby win over Tottenham.

Just days before, Havertz scored a brace against his former team, Chelsea, leading Arsenal to their biggest-ever win against the Blues (5-0). The impressive string of recent performances is not just validation that Arsenal were justified in taking a gamble on Havertz over the summer, but symbolic of his revitalization into a top-class player that is a playing a key role in Arsenal’s title run down the stretch.

Plus, he’s become such a fan-favorite in North London that Gooners have created a new song dedicated to him.

But how did we get here just months removed from Arsenal fans having their doubts about Havertz at the club?

Risky business

It’s difficult to assess Havertz’s legacy with Chelsea. In his three years at Stamford Bridge, he had some highs (scoring the Champions League winning goal in 2021 comes to mind) but was marred by inconsistency and Chelsea’s less-than-stellar results with him in the lineup.

The flashes were there, yes. But, for Chelsea fans, there was a consensus that the German hadn’t lived up to his expectations since signing from Bayer Leverkusen in 2020. With just 32 goals and 12 assists in 139 appearances, Havertz’s market value plummeted from €90 million to €55 million in his three season with the club.

This is exactly why Arsenal got so much flak when they signed the now 24-year-old for €75m (£65m) in July – 136% of his estimated transfer value at the time.

There were also questions about how Havertz would fit in the team? Is he a no. 8? No. 9? No. 10? How will Mikel Arteta use him in a line up filled with attacking talent? Could Arteta just say “fuck it” and play Havertz as a left back like he has for Germany?

Overcoming a slow start

The skepticism continued after Havertz’s slow start this season. Despite averaging 65 minutes in his first seven appearances for the club, he had nothing to show for it and the “Chelsea fleeced Arsenal” memes started to roll in.

Despite the consistent minutes, it was still not quite clear how Havertz best fit into Arteta’s team. He would start as a no. 8 but look absent from the midfield. He was missing easy chances and looking shaky on the ball. His confidence was at an all-time low, but Arteta – clearly having seen Havertz’s potential in practice – never lost belief and maintained that the German was an important part of his long-term plans.

We were very convinced that they were characters first, they were players with the right qualities to fit within our model, our club, and sometimes it takes a bit of time, that’s inevitable.

Arteta on why Arsenal signed Havertz

What Havertz did show during this tough stretch was his work-rate and determination; He never stopped making the runs, even if he had nothing to show for it.

Bukayo Saka and Martin Ødegaard rewarded his positive attitude by gifting him a penalty kick in the Gunners’ 4-0 rout of Bournemouth in September, and his confidence has only grown from there.

Is he a striker or a midfielder?

Havertz continued to play regular minutes throughout the first half of the season, but still only had five Premier League goal contributions to show for it through the end of the year.

That all changed when Gabriel Jesus went down with a knee injury in February, leading to Havertz moving up top. There, he’s thrived.

  • Havertz has 13 goal (8G, 5A) contributions in his last 11 Premier League appearances.

  • Since the start of 2024, only Cole Palmer (16) and Ollie Watkins (13) have more more goal contributions in the Premier League.

  • Havertz has averaged a 7.10 match rating this season per WhoScored? – the fourth-highest in Arsenal’s squad.

Havertz simply looks more comfortable as a striker. His intelligent runs and lanky frame make him an asset in hold-up play, where he excels at knocking down lobbed balls over the top into the path of oncoming runners. Arsenal are more productive and clinical when Havertz is up top.

Havertz’s versatility and unique profile make him desired by Arteta and Edu, but ironically is also the reason why it took him so long to find his role in the squad.

Back in his Leverkusen days, the German media gave him the nickname Alleskönner, which translates to “someone who can do anything.” It’s not always easy to know what the hell to do with a player of his quality, but whatever Arteta is doing is clearly working, and Havertz’s confidence is sky-high.

Zoom out: Arsenal lead lead the league by one point with three games remaining, but the threat of Man City is looming large. Pep Guardiola’s side haven’t lost a Premier League game since December, and with a game in hand are still favorited to win their fourth straight league title (67% to Arsenal’s 33%).

I can’t help but wonder what song Arsenal fans will come up with next if they miraculously pull this off. 🎶