Kai Havertz shows talent as Chelsea FC spearhead - and leaves Thomas Tuchel with Real Madrid dilemma

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James Robson
·5-min read
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 (Getty Images)
(Getty Images)

Kai Havertz needed 49 minutes to double his Premier League goals total and keep Chelsea on course for Champions League qualification.

That statistic underlines how much the German has struggled in his first season in English football. But this performance provided a tantalising glimpse of what he can offer Thomas Tuchel going forward.

This was a consummate No9 display from Chelsea’s false nine.

Both of his goals were a testament to his intelligence, movement and finishing prowess.

That is what Chelsea thought they were buying when they beat Real Madrid to his signature last summer – spending £71million in the process. Yet it has been an underwhelming campaign, disrupted by injury, a nasty bout of coronavirus and managerial change.

Is it any wonder he has failed to hit the ground running?

But the quality has never been in doubt – and there have been moments in recent weeks when his true ability has shone through.

Getty Images
Getty Images

Against Crystal Palace last month, he put on a virtuoso display. And he followed that up against Fulham with a match-winning performance that will make it difficult for Tuchel to leave him out of Wednesday’s Champions League semi-final second leg against Real.

How fitting it would be were he to show the Spanish giants exactly what they are missing. In truth there have rarely been moments when anyone from Real will have looked on longingly at Havertz this season. He has been fitful at best – infuriatingly inconsistent at worst.

A hat-trick against Barnsley in the EFL Cup back in September proved a false dawn as he managed just three more goals in all competitions before this game.

Finding his best position has been the biggest issue – an area from which he can be of most influence.

There is still the sense that Tuchel is yet to come up with an answer, but Havertz has looked at his most promising when deployed in the middle of a front three, whether as a withdrawn striker or an orthodox No9.

It is the position that Tuchel has struggled to fill more than any other. Tammy Abraham is likely to leave this summer after failing to establish himself under the German. Olivier Giroud is also out of favour and out of contract at the end of the season.

Timo Werner’s ongoing problems in front of goal also appear to rule him out as a long-term option at the point of attack, so it has been a case of Tuchel constantly tinkering with his forward line in a bid to find the right balance.

POOL/AFP via Getty Images
POOL/AFP via Getty Images

More often than not, it looks at its most complete when Havertz is the pivotal figure – yet Tuchel’s own misgivings were underlined when he started his countryman on the bench against Real last week.

Surely that will not be the case for the second leg, with the former Bayer Leverkusen star full of confidence on the back of this performance. His ruthless finishing was precisely what Werner has been lacking, with the £45million forward missing sitters against West Ham and Real in the past week.

But it is also Havertz’ ability to find space in the box and consistently get on the end Chelsea’s attacks that will be so encouraging to Tuchel.

Racing onto Mason Mount’s through-ball after 10 minutes, he swept his shot past Alphonse Areola to put Chelsea ahead.

After the break it was a give and go with Werner that put him clear – his burst of pace getting him beyond the last man and then a supremely confident finish to put the game beyond doubt.

Tuchel will still look to improve his attack in the summer, with Erling Haaland, Sergio Aguero and Romelu Lukaku all targets, but in Havertz he is finally unlocking the talent Chelsea were convinced would make him a Stamford Bridge icon when bringing him to the club.

Another match-winning performance against Real would be a major step to achieving that.

Chelsea pass the test of focus

With all eyes on Wednesday’s showdown with Real, it would have been easy for Chelsea to let their minds wander. But with the race for fourth-place so intense, there is little room for error.

Last week’s win against West Ham has put them firmly in control of their destiny – but David Moyes and Jurgen Klopp will both be aiming to pounce on any slip from Tuchel’s side as the German targets a Champions League and FA Cup double.

He called for focus and that is precisely what he got. Fulham – all but certain of relegation – were not prepared to be rolled over by their West London neighbours. But they were undone by the quality of Chelsea’s attacking movement.

More of the same on Wednesday might just be enough to see off Real.

Zouma is a victim of Tuchel’s reign

A rare start for Zouma provided a reminder of his qualities. He has been one of the players most hurt by Tuchel’s arrival after being pushed down the pecking order.

Zouma was one of Frank Lampard’s star performers during Chelsea’s flying start to the season – but has been a spectator more often than not under Tuchel.

Here he demonstrated his prowess in the air, pace and anticipation in a confident display. But he will be expecting to be on the side lines again on Wednesday – even if Toni Rudiger fails to recover from injury in time to face Real.

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