Chelsea

Kai Havertz fades into background as Chelsea dismantle Norwich

Krishan Davis
Havertz wasn't involved in any of the goals
Havertz wasn't involved in any of the goals / Alex Pantling/GettyImages
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From Stamford Bridge - It's one of the quirks of football that while his compatriot Timo Werner has been a lightning rod for criticism amid his struggles since arriving at Chelsea, Kai Havertz has so far managed to fly under the radar.

Perhaps it is simply a result of not having the goalscoring onus on his shoulders.

However, following untimely injuries to both regular forwards Werner and Romelu Lukaku in the Champions League in midweek, an out-of-form Havertz was thrust into the spotlight when Chelsea hosted Norwich at Stamford Bridge on Saturday.

Head coach Thomas Tuchel threw the gauntlet down to the 22-year-old ahead of the match.

"Without Romelu we thought we can play with Timo or Kai as a number nine," he said. "You maybe call it a false nine, for me not so much because Kai is also very strong in the last line and behind it and arriving in the box. For me it is a big strength of him.

"When he plays a number nine we want this and he did against Malmo. So this is what we expect from him tomorrow."

He continued: "There is only one way to make it to the pitch and that is performance. There is no other way. There never was, there never will be. Kai was not on the personal highest level, other people were closer to their highest level and we were winning.

"It was now necessary that he waited for some matches because we felt other guys were in better shape so we did what we needed to do. There is so much talent, so much potential and he needs to show it. He gets the minutes he deserves. There is only one thing to make it to the team, performance."

90 minutes later, the question marks still remain.

Chelsea routed the sorry Canaries 7-0, but there was a notable absentee among the goalscorers. While this was by no means a poor individual performance from the German, who had plenty of industry in his play but lacked a bit of guile, his non-involvement in the key moments will be a concern - especially in the absence of Lukaku.

The watchword for the supporters is rightly 'patience', with the majority still certain he will come good on the early promise he showed in his time with Bayer Leverkusen. Since his arrival in 2020 there has always been an audible hum of anticipation among the Chelsea following whenever Havertz is on the ball, and Saturday was no different.

However, he could only muster two half-chances in a game full of opportunities; failing to connect properly as he wafted his foot at a through ball in the first half, and being characteristically ponderous when bearing down on Tim Krul's goal later on, allowing a defender to get across him to block.

The grace of his balletic playing style is undoubtedly mesmeric, but sometimes you just want Havertz to bloody THUMP it. Indeed, with 20 minutes to go and plenty of chances still left in the game Tuchel had seen enough, hauling the attacker off for Ross Barkley - who immediately looked more threatening as a false nine and should have scored.

Although he worked hard and showed good strength and hold-up play, Havertz was neither among the goals nor the assists.

Of course this is very much an individual issue, with the rest of Tuchel's Chelsea side emphatically answering questions about where the goals might come from with Lukaku sidelined. Mason Mount netted a hat-trick and wing-backs Reece James and Ben Chilwell both demonstrated their impressive knack of popping up with a goal, joining Callum Hudson-Odoi on the scoresheet.

Chelsea won't be playing a really, really, really poor Norwich every week, though, so it remains to be seen whether the burden can continue to be shared so evenly if Havertz can't get into a vein of form.

What is clear is that drawing a creative blank in a match of this nature may see Tuchel run out of patience with his compatriot, if - like Saturday - he doesn't have to rely on him in attack.


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