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Talking Tactics

Why a free role gets the best out of Havertz

Adrian Clarke 16 Mar 2023
Kai Havertz TT

Adrian Clarke explains how Graham Potter is using his versatile attacker as Chelsea prepare to host Everton

Adrian Clarke looks at key tactical points and players who could be decisive in Matchweek 28.

Player Analysis - Kai Havertz

Havertz is a hybrid attacking player whom you cannot pin down to one defined role or position.

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Since joining in 2020, Chelsea have used him as a No 8, a No 10, a right winger, a "false nine" and more recently a centre-forward.

In that sense, he is very well suited to playing for Graham Potter.

The Chelsea head coach likes working with adaptable players who can seamlessly move around to suit his tactical demands, and Havertz fits that mould.

He may only have six Premier League goals in 2022/23, but no matter where Havertz plays, he is often Chelsea’s biggest threat.

Indeed, nobody has come close to registering as many shots as his 42 this season.

Most shots by Chelsea players 22/23
Player Shots (excl. blocks)
Kai Havertz 42
Mason Mount 19
Raheem Sterling 19
Joao Felix 14
Christian Pulisic 11

Havertz is a free spirit who thrives from the freedom of being able to pop up in different areas inside the opposition half.

He links play well, using his great spatial awareness and movement to outfox his markers.

Between the lines, he is capable of producing fantastic through-balls, such as the 40-yard pass that sent Joao Felix clear at Leicester City last weekend.

His core strengths do not include engaging in aggressive tussles with centre-backs, running in behind at pace or producing clinical finishes.

That partly explains why we have not seen the best of him as the team’s lone striker.

What has Potter changed?

During their impressive 3-1 win over Leicester last weekend, it was Mykhailo Mudryk who started as the nominal centre-forward in a fluid 3-4-3 formation, with Havertz to his right and Joao Felix to the Ukrainian’s left.

In possession, Havertz and Joao Felix both joined in centrally, enjoying free roles that allowed them to rotate positions.

After half-time, the shape changed to a 3-5-2 with Mudryk and Havertz as the strike pairing, still able to roam.

Considering Saturday's visitors Everton are likely to pack central areas with a midfield three, Potter might match them up in that area and opt for the front two from the start.

Havertz's shots and passes v Leicester
Havertz was everywhere and most of his passes and shots were successful, as shown by the green arrows

Havertz was outstanding and registered five shots against Leicester, including one of the goals of the season just before the break.

Arriving late inside the box to cushion a lobbed volley over the head of Danny Ward from a sublime Enzo Fernandez pass, Chelsea’s mobile front man seemed to revel in a role that allowed him to take up unexpected positions.

Havertz's goal v Leicester

No one at Chelsea has made more starts than Havertz's 22 or played more minutes than his 1,893, so he is clearly well regarded by Potter.

Whenever Chelsea swing crosses into the box, he is their strongest aerial threat, scoring three headed goals this season.

Only three Premier League forwards have attempted more headed shots on goal in 2022/23 than Havertz, who has produced 11 more than his closest team-mate Thiago Silva, with five.

Most headed shots from forwards 22/23
Player Total
Aleksandar Mitrovic 32
Harry Kane 27
Erling Haaland 19
Kai Havertz 16
Kieffer Moore 13

His all-round contribution to the side is likely to improve as part of a roaming front two, or in an attacking midfield role.

However, in matches where he does not start as a striker, it is crucial he makes runs into the box when play is building up out wide.

Chelsea will be hoping Havertz can continue his impressive form this weekend.

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