Thomas Tuchel backs Kai Havertz to fill number nine role for Chelsea

Mark Walker, PA
·3-min read

Chelsea boss Thomas Tuchel is confident Kai Havertz could spearhead his side’s Champions League challenge as their central striker.

Havertz arrived at Stamford Bridge as an attacking midfielder when former manager Frank Lampard signed him from Bayer Leverkusen for £71million, including add-ons, last September.

But Tuchel, who made six changes for Saturday’s 0-0 draw at Leeds, played Havertz as his number nine at Elland Road, with Timo Werner and Olivier Giroud on the bench, while Tammy Abraham is still injured.

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“It was pretty much the same role that he (Havertz) had against Everton,” said Tuchel, who felt the Blues created enough chances to leave West Yorkshire with all three points.

“I think that Kai feels very comfortable in high positions. I feel he is very comfortable to go to drop in to half-spaces from the high position, to turn and drive with the ball and use his speed.

“But he also arrives very naturally in the box and the six-yard box, to finish our attacks.”

German international Havertz was denied by Leeds goalkeeper Illan Meslier’s smart reaction save early in the second half and failed to convert three other chances.

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But Tuchel added: “He’s comfortable in finishing, he’s strong in finishing. He can clearly play as a number nine, he can play as a half-striker or as a winger.

“These are his positions and today we used him as a number nine and I’m happy.

“Unfortunately he could not finish like his finishes in training and like his talents allow him to finish because we had enough chances.

“It’s a position where he feels comfortable and I trust him in this position.”

Chelsea extended their unbeaten run under Tuchel, who replaced Lampard in January, to 12 matches in all competitions.

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Their hard-earned point kept them in fourth place with nine league games remaining.

Leeds avoided a third straight league defeat and although they have failed to score in their last three matches, they too created several clear-cut chances.

Boss Marcelo Bielsa took heart after his side had posed Chelsea plenty of problems and his satisfaction was echoed by defender Pascal Struijk.

“We’ll take a point against a very good side like them,” Struijk told the club’s official website.

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“They’ve been on a good run, so it’s good for us to get a point out of this game.

“We had a couple of chances but unfortunately they didn’t go in, but it’s good we can create these chances.

“If we can get a point and we are unlucky not to get three points, it shows we can compete with the best.”

Bielsa was forced to use a 13th different partnership of the season at centre-back, with Struijk alongside Diego Llorente as skipper Liam Cooper missed out through illness.

The Argentinian is also waiting to learn the full extent of Patrick Bamford’s leg injury after the striker limped out of the action in the first half.