Arsenal Analysis: What will Kai Havertz bring to the Gunners tactical setup?

The Kai Havertz Dilemma

Lots of commentators, pundits and Arsenal fans have been weighing in on the Kai Havertz debate as to whether he is a good signing for Arsenal or a future expensive flop. Ironically a lot of the Arsenal fanbase who are bemoaning the price paid by Arsenal were the same who were appalled that the club managed to be outbid by Chelsea in the pursuit of Mudryk.

Thus, they felt that Edu made a mistake in not paying over £88 million for a largely unproven player from the Ukrainian league, and then made a further mishap for paying £23 million less for an established German international who has scored the winner in the Champions League and World Club finals. The guy just can’t win. However, looking at the Havertz signing through the optic of comparative analysis with a different transfer is not the way to judge whether he will be a good signing or not.

The question is what will Havertz bring to Arsenal. The most quoted quality is his versatility. It has been frequently stated that he can play on both wings, the number 10 role, the number 8 role, false number 9 and striker.

The impression given when these roles are discussed is the implementation of the player in any of these selected positions in which he will be placed, and there he shall remain. This undermines the fluid quality that a versatile player offers. The fact that Havertz has the skill set to perform the duties required in these varied positions outlines his capacity to adapt, and that capacity creates an unpredictability that defenders despise.

Defenders relish structure and consistency. They like to be able to pre-empt what an attacker is going to do and adjust their body position accordingly. Havertz’s versatility undermines this as he can chose to attack from any of the variety of roles that he is capable of performing in. So, the true virtue of a versatile player is not being simply being able to play a distinct role in a game but having the ability to play all of them at different junctures in the course of the contest.

Chelsea didn’t offer the dynamic movement required to take advantage of his versatility and Havertz was restricted in being able to demonstrate the full extent of his qualities. Arsenal’s attack on the other hand is primarily centred around the constant movement of Jesus, Odegaard, Nketiah and Martinelli which should offer the new recruit a range of options to open up defences with.

Another important element of Havertz’s contribution is his pressing. His pressing stats are among the most impressive in the Premier League and this is a very attractive feature for an Arteta team who look to defend from the front. Given the already considerable pressure applied by the constant running of the existing forwards the addition of another effective pressure will prove to be a headache for team’s intent of playing out from the back, which is omnipresent in the Premiership at the minute. And this brings up another point about the Havertz signing. It shouldn’t be assessed in isolation but viewed through the strategy of the transfer window as a whole thus far.

The three other prominent names that have emerged along with Havertz in this window are Rice, Timber and Lavia. The fact that Arteta and Edu are relentlessly pursuing these players having effectively secured Havertz’s signature is by design. If you are buying another attacking midfielder to press on the opposition, thereby committing five players to the press then it is essential that if that press is bypassed that you have a midfielder with a very high interception rate behind them to interrupt the unfolding attack, if not break it down completely.

It’s important to highlight that interceptions are different to tackles made in the sense that an interception is predicting where the ball is going to go whereas a tackle is dispossessing the opponent. A player with a high interception rate has the capacity to read the emerging play and locate himself in the most advantageous position to break it up.

This is where Rice and Lavia excel. They are both excellent readers of the game and will offer a safety net that helps minimize the risk of having so many attackers committed to chasing the ball down. They are not needed to win the ball necessarily, but position themselves to slow the play enabling the attackers to get back into position.

Should Rice and Lavia be unable to break down or slow the play then it is critical that your defenders have speed as they will be playing a high line in order to squeeze the pitch so that the initial press was done as close to the oppositions box as possible. This is where Saliba was sorely missed at the tail end of last season and that is why Timber is being sought.

Gabriel needs a partner who can cover the ground quickly for recovery tackles because he has a large section of the pitch to patrol due to Zinchenko’s inverted role. Zinchenko’s role offers assistance to the defensive midfielder but creates space on the left side. Therefore, it is critical that the other central defender is fast as he will also have a substantial chunk of real estate to look after.

The point is that Havertz wasn’t bought on a whim but with the intent of buying the other players who are needed to initiate the system that will make him considerably more potent along with increasing the effectiveness of the rest of the attacking unit. There is no doubt that this an expensive strategy and may not deliver, but it is also a very daring one and has huge exciting potential that this particular Gooner is salivating at the thought of seeing it in action.

Trust the process.

Peter Doherty

Tags Arsenal tactics Arteta tactics Havertz


  1. Good, well presented analysis. I too look forward to what Havertz brings to the Arsenal and the system in which MA employs.

  2. Mate, your articles are always so well written and on the money. I personally can’t wait to see Havertz, Rice, Timber and potentially Lavia. What exceptional additions all will be. Take a bow Mikel, Edu and the board.

  3. Maybe he will play false-nine again, to drop down as a decoy and let Jesus cut inside from the left wing:

    …….………….……. Ramsdale
    ………. Timber .… Saliba …. Magalhaes
    ………………. White ……..… Rice
    Saka . Odegaard . Zinchenko . Jesus
    ……………………..…. Havertz

    The tactic would make Jesus focus on shooting and penetrating the penalty box with his tricks, instead of tussling against the opposition’s CBs

    If Smith-Rowe, Trossard or Nelson plays in the left AM position, they can also cut inside and shoot with their stronger legs

    1. Don’t you think We should have moved for Maddison instead of Havertz??
      Maddison can play on Xhaka’s place and he moved to Tottenham only for 40
      We missed the big chance..

      1. We’ve got too many midfielders for Xhaka’s position, such as Smith-Rowe, Vieira, Zinchenko, Trossard, Nelson, Sambi-Lokonga and Rice

        1. I don’t consider Zinchenko an orthodox midfielder, MA does not use him that way, not saying he can’t play the position. Viera and Sambi are not good enough for this season, if ever. I don’t think Nelson or Trossard will be played in midfield either, although Trossard is capable to do so if needed. Just my opinion.

      1. I think Martinelli will still be unfit at the beginning of next season. He could play on the left wing again after having fully recovered from his injury

    2. GAI, Havertz is not a central striker and never has been. I guarantee he will not be used in the position you predict, either as a CF or false 9. I’m sure he will play in the position he used to play successfully in Germany as an attacking 8, somewhat like Xhaka’s transformation last season and likely as his replacement.

      1. Havertz played false-nine under Tuchel’s guidance and for Germany when they played against Poland/ Colombia recently

        He could become Xhaka’s replacement, but we’ve got Smith-Rowe, Vieira, Zinchenko, Trossard, Nelson, Sambi-Lokonga and Rice for that role

    3. The most absurd idea of a formation. Ben White and zinchenko in the midfield and no saka who happens to be our most potent offensive player. Quite an imagination you got mate.

      1. In that formation, White plays inverted-RB who will drop into RB position when we don’t have the ball. As for Saka, he is on the right wing

    4. I like that lineup a lot but I can’t see jesus being moved wide again. I strongly suspect one of his reasons for moving here was to be our main cf, and I don’t think he’d enjoy being shunted out wide again, even though I agree he’d do well there.
      I see that as one of the many options the squad would give us – zinchenko could drop out, with havertz moving to midfield, jesus up front and martinelli on the left, for example.
      I also think trossard, ESR and even Nelson could play several roles in the lineup you posted. It just highlights the flexibility we will have, especially in attacking areas

      1. It makes sense

        But if Havertz replaces Xhaka, Smith-Rowe, Vieira and other attacking midfielders would have very limited playing time again. Unless Smith-Rowe or Vieira gets shipped out before the season starts

    5. And what happens to martinelli? I don’t understand btjis analysis of yours honestly.

      1. I think Martinelli will still be unfit at the beginning of next season. He could play LW again after having fully recovered from his injury

  4. Bringing Harvetz to a team that already has Trossard, Vieira and ESR could be a very expensive mistake or a piece of transfer genius by Arteta. The board has backed Arteta and now he must deliver.

  5. I don’t know how MA will use him or who he will bench, but I was hoping that he would consider playing with 4-1-4-1 with one CDM and consider playing Saka-Odegard-ESR-Jesus and Havertz on top while exchanging positions with Jesus during the game or changing the formation to 4-1-3-2

    But as far as I saw from MA, he would stick to his 4-2-3-1, and obviously, we will sacrifice benching ESR/Neilson/Martinelli/Trossard/Vieira

    1. I personally think we missed the opportunity to bring Madison. He would have created a lot of chances with odegard- for the attackers to thrive . Having hervartz is a luxury signing. If he was bought to play the false 9 system, then trossard, martinelli, niesson will be constantly being benched

  6. That’s the 65 million pound question. Obviously MA believes he can turn the ugly duckling into a beautiful swan. I have given up trying to second guess MA, but I do think he see’s a player that can play a role in his team, and I trust his judgement. My guess is he will predominantly play a left sided 8 against teams where we expect to dominate the ball.

  7. He better hit the ground running or else we know what will happen:

    high price —> long run of starts —> if form drops —> player won’t get dropped due to price —> will keep playing out of form player —> squad players get demoralised and aren’t match fit —-> months later player eventually gets dropped —> squad player comes in but is so unfit and not match ready —> squad player is thrown under the bus for not being good enough despite spending years under the coaching of the manager —> more money demanded because squad isn’t good enough

    Tell me this has happened before?

    1. It’s been that way for many players and I’m very sure Havertz will not be benched even if he’s playing nonsense like he did at Chelsea.

  8. Rice and Havertz done deal, can we please stop the crying and lying about not spending now? Don’t just look at what we’ve spent in the last year look at how much revenue we’ve received from selling players.

    We can also stop hiding behind we don’t have the squad to compete, look how many players we have out on loan. Glad these myths are all cleared up now.

    1. Our squad is still not on City’s level. Number wise maybe, but not quality. To have a really comparable squad we need to retain Partey or replace him with equal quality, and bring at least 2 more top players to attack and defense.

  9. The midfielders will be needed coz of the competitions we are getting into. I see MA have 2 sitting midfielders in Rice and partey or Jorginho…letting odegard and harvert press up and become the cerative pivot while dominating the middle of the park…with our front 3 causing alot of trouble…

  10. Its good we are done with this signings,but we need a good squad to compete even in the champions league.

  11. Havertz has never been an ugly duckling, indeed I remember him orchestrating the play for Bayern Laver and thinking this guy must be one of the most elegant footballers I have seen, and I have seen a few in my lifetime.At that time he played a number 10 role and his performances were at times , sublime, leading to his move to Chelsea.Unfortunately he arrived at Chelsea at a time when they were showing signs of creaking both on and off the pitch, and they have subsequently imploded big time.For those who merely join any band wagon, Havertz has been tarnished with the same brush as others at Chelsea, when in fact his performances have been at worst inconsistent.Thrust into a central strikers role which he never played in Germany he became her another square being asked to fit into a found hole.Personally I am very pleased with his signing, and I am confident he will flourish with Arsenal and bring even more fluidity to an already highly mobile attacking line up.

    1. I never watched him live for leverkusen, but in clips he looks similar to Ozil only with the determination and physical strength to hold off challenges, which would have been some player

  12. One of Havertz strength is making runs in the opponent penalty box. Xhaka had a great season but there were numerous times when there was the opportunity to break into the box for a cut back and he was unable to do it or reluctant as he lack the pace to recover if the attack broke apart.

  13. Yeah and let’s not judge a book by its cover for we might judge these signigs wrong or right but the answer is in their legs. This is Arteta’s and his board business, thy know what thy are doing.
    let’s wait what will happen.

  14. While I do think he’s a very good player, I struggle with the assertion that he can play as an 8 – I suspect he would be able to, but has he ever done it before? And, in comparison with xhaka, I think it’s clear he would likely (though not certain) improve is in attack, but weaken us in defence.
    Just mention that because to me, it seems almost certain that arteta will want to play him primarily either as an 8 or as the CF – I just don’t see where else he regularly starts in our team. And of those two options, I think the 8 position is far more likely because I haven’t seen any evidence that arteta doesn’t have complete faith in jesus (rightly so, in my view, though he should be willing to drop him when out of form).

  15. Havertz looks as happy as a lark have never seen German in this moon for many moons, maybe its something about the Jersey or Jorginho spirit is just infectious.

    But Havertz and Pulsic was unplayable a couple moons ago before coming to Chelsea.

  16. He is an Arsenal player now so we should ALL support him and give him a chance to prove himself

  17. Welcome to the Red side of London Harverz, have my doubts on the amount of money paid. But boy got talent, finishing is what he really needs to work on. For sure he improves the team

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