Jamie Carragher and Gary Neville agree as Arsenal ace shows Liverpool what they're missing

Sky Sports TV Presenter and Former Footballer, Jamie Carragher reacts with Sky Sports TV Presenter and Former Footballer, Gary Neville, prior to the Premier League match between Aston Villa and Sheffield United at Villa Park on December 22, 2023 in Birmingham, England.

Jamie Carragher and Gary Neville have both praised Kai Havertz's contributions for Arsenal and compared him to former Liverpool star Roberto Firmino.

Havertz joined the Gunners last summer with Mikel Arteta viewing the Germany international as a midfielder and a potential replacement for the outgoing Granit Xhaka. A challenging opening few months saw Havertz taken out of the firing line before Arteta opted to deploy him in a false 9 role - and he has not looked back since.

From 36 Premier League appearances, Havertz has bagged 12 goals and picked up seven assists. However, it has been his work off the ball that has caught the eye of Carragher, with the former Liverpool defender referencing Firmino in his verdict on Havertz's performances.

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Liverpool have a number of dynamic attacking players but replacing Firmino's unique skillset has proven difficult for Jurgen Klopp. The Reds have scored fewer League goals (84) than rivals Arsenal (89) and Man City (91) as their title dreams slipped away in recent weeks. They have also conceded more (41) than Arsenal (28) and City (33) to highlight defensive concerns.

Following Arsenal's 3-0 win over Bournemouth on May 4, Carragher said on Sky Sports: "I think Arsenal right now are as good as anyone in Europe and probably the world defensively and at making it tough for teams. They have definitely improved in 2024 from the first half of the season, and one of the reasons is the role of Kai Havertz.

"He was mocked a little bit at the start of the season. Finally, we are seeing he is a centre-forward. I'm not saying he is going to be an unbelievable goalscorer, because he's not. But he is a centre-forward and he is helping Arsenal do what they are doing right now, which is being so strong defensively. That's what is giving them a great chance to win the Premier League title.

"When I think of great centre-forwards in the Premier League who haven't been great goalscorers, the one that comes to mind is Firmino at Liverpool and the work he did off the ball. How often did we talk about that Liverpool team, with Firmino being deep, helping the midfield, and the wide players being in a position to penetrate?

"Look at the reaction of all the players [after Leandro Trossard scores the goal]. Everyone is celebrating, because they know the second goal is the relief. But look at Havertz. He is shattered. He is not celebrating because he's absolutely knackered. He is on his haunches, absolutely shattered, because of the work he is doing for the team. Absolutely fantastic."

Roberto Firmino embraces Jürgen Klopp after being substituted in Liverpool vs Bournemouth in 2022.
Roberto Firmino was one of the defining players of the Jürgen Klopp era at Liverpool -Credit:Photo by OLI SCARFF/AFP via Getty Images

Against Manchester United, Havertz was at it again with a huge defensive shift after he assisted the decisive goal scored by Trossard. After the game, Neville picked out Havertz in particular and agreed with Carragher's assessment.

"They are all contributing," Neville said of Arsenal's 1-0 win at Old Trafford. "They are all fit which is important as well. Today they were given a little bit of a gift but they exploited that gift. They have got a good balance. Havertz is doing a similar thing to the thing that Firmino did at Liverpool.

"He just drops in, links the play and provides a goal threat. He’s subservient to the team and will do whatever the team needs in a game. You remember for large parts of the season there were large question marks over Kai Havertz, but he’s become an important figure.

"I used to think Firmino was a wonderful player for Liverpool and [Sadio] Mane and [Mohamed] Salah used to get all the plaudits and the main credit. That’s right, but I always used to mention Firmino because they way he played connected the midfield into the attack, and Havertz is doing something similar. We know about Saka, Trossard and Martinelli because they are excellent wide players."