It’s been a bit of a strange year if you’re a footballer.
Strange for all of us, of course, but with the player's lives continuing in front of empty arenas, in a packed schedule, while meaningless things such as transfer windows still operated, must have been pretty surreal.
The recent Super League drama has added another layer of weirdness to a season that most of us will be happy to see the back of, and for a while Kai Havertz would likely have agreed.
His dream move to the Premier League has taken place amidst this chaos. He was seemingly not quite ready for the pace of the division, nor was he given a definitive position by Frank Lampard, which meant many games passing him by.
A bout of covid last October clearly impacted him far more than the public were made aware and, like other players on the continent such as Paulo Dybala at Juventus, their season has been ruined by it. Not unfit, per se, rather impeded by a condition, and even by the German’s languid standards he has looked even more detached than normal.
But, finally, we are beginning to see glimpses of what made the 21-year-old such an attractive prospect, even at the high fee Chelsea paid. He netted both goals in the 2-0 weekend win over Fulham, neat finishes each, slotting home with a confidence that has been all too lacking.
And in the last three matches he has racked up an xG of 2.6 - more than 50% of his total in the league for the entire season. With so many attacking options at his disposal manager Thomas Tuchel has still been working out the finer details of his best side, which has meant rotation and tinkering with tactics.
The likes of Christian Pulisic, Timo Werner and Hakim Ziyech are all competing for the same starting spots and with so many games there’s likely minutes for them all, but Havertz was until late likely at the bottom of that list. Pleasingly for Tuchel, he is beginning to get the message.
Havertz has a history of drifting out of form completely if things aren’t to his liking. In the 2019/20 season at Leverkusen he was so out of touch that after a muscle injury put him out of action in October, he wasn’t returned to the starting XI.
Indeed, he scored just twice before Christmas, prompting many to worry whether Havertz had already been burned out, having featured so much since turning 17; he was a long way from the breakout star who had netted 17 Bundesliga goals in a single season while still in his teens.
He said at the time: "Last season was like a benchmark for me, so it has been difficult to keep pace with this. It's normal for a young player like me to then experience a small dip, but these are phases that shape you as a player and as a person.
"You learn the most in these situations, and I think it was the first time in my career that praise wasn't constantly being heaped on me. The things being written about me weren't all positive, but things like that do not hold me back, and I'll just try to prove myself again."
Havertz in the past few months has been right back there. The words about him have been far from kind, packed with even more punch due to the gigantic transfer fee attached. And yes, his naturally effortless style can be misconstrued as lazy or uninterested if form isn’t being kind.
But all the attributes that made him one of the most exciting players in Germany are still in evidence; finding space, finishing well, supporting team-mates with intelligent running. It needs to be remembered that this entire Chelsea offence was acquired in a single summer and asked to integrate seamlessly. In a normal year, it’s a big ask. But in this year of immense upheaval it’s been too much.
However with Tuchel in charge now, a fellow German, and one who was delighted with his decisive display against Fulham giving him a selection headache ahead of the Real Madrid return, the atmosphere is more positive, his future returning to the correct path.
While most of us could do with a little break from football after this relentless campaign, Havertz is a player hoping that this momentum never ends.
Odds correct at 0940 BST (03/05/21)
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