It is clear that Smith-Rowe must replace Havertz in Arsenal’s starting line up

Kai Havertz delivered another subpar performance against Crystal Palace. It was as if the mid-season break sucked the rhythm out of him, given that he appeared to have found his feet in Arsenal colors before the trip to Dubai.

Havertz completed 25 of his 27 passes. However, he did not make any key passes, create any chances, or hit any shots. He lost four out of nine duels and lost possession seven times.

Yet, even with Havertz’s struggles, Arsenal had a fantastic game; before halftime, they were two goals up, and by the time he was substituted, the Gunners were three up, but Emile Smith Rowe came on to replace him and had a noticeable impact in the game. The Hale End graduate (after being introduced in the 69th minute) picked up good positions inside the channels and drove at Palace’s defense, getting into dangerous positions in the box.

Yes, Smith-Rowe, like Havertz, did not create any chances, but he played a role in Gabriel Martinelli’s two goals in the dying moments of the game.

Arsenal continues to reject offers for his services from other clubs; a transfer request from West Ham was reportedly rejected, but Arteta is benching him in favor of Kai Havertz.

If I had advice for Arteta for his game plan for Arsenal’s next match, which is against Nottingham Forest, I would tell him to start Emile Smith Rowe and bring on Kai Havertz in the second half until Emile becomes fully match fit.

Who agrees with me?

Darren N

Tags Kai Havertz Smith-Rowe


  1. I have no problem replacing Havertz, but ESR is definitely not the answer because you cannot rely on him to stay fit. The best option for any manager at Arsenal would be to only use ESR as a squad player, and it would be up to the player if they’re happy with that.

    1. That’s a big call to play him in place of the German, their skills sets are different.

      Smith Rowe seems to be a great carrier of the ball with his close control and direct running, the big German is a more physical player that team mates can feed off.
      But I can understand if the gaffer start the Englishman
      against Palace, he looks fresh and hungry.

  2. I like smith Rowe and want to see him play more but I think it has to be Jorginho starting next to rice until Partey is back. Partey and Jorginho are the only two that attempt playing the ball over the top. It’s frustrating seeing players like Eddie and martinelli try and get in behind and the ball is never played

  3. No. ESR can carry the ball and go inside the box and shoot. That is about it. He is not press resistant, can’t dribble, can’t give killer passes, can’t press. He is not suited for our high-press high-tempo game. He might be ok for some games, but generally, he is not suited for our system.

    1. You must be joking? Statistically one of the best dribblers in the league, he operates in tight spaces and can turn very quickly making him ideal against a press and he’s also hard working enough to lead one. And he is far more suited to a high tempo game than Havertz, who repeatedly slows our play (especially our counter attacks) down.

      1. Show me this statistic. He can carry the ball in open spaces, but can’t really dribble past opponents in tight spaces. And as said, he is just not suited for our style of play. Having a good run in 2021 Arsenal does not mean he is suited for the high-intensity game we play now. I am not saying we should not play him. He is perfect to use in more open games like the second half against Palace, but when we are under pressure he can’t cope, and can’t press to keep us intensive against a low bloc. He compete with Kai, so relative to Kai he might have some better on the ball qualities, but he is not the answer to our problems.

    2. This is not entirely accurate but there is no doubt that there has been excessive hype about Smith-Rowe which are allied to the concerns about Havertz.
      There is no doubt that ESR can dribble; but he is not a great dribbler. He likes to drive forwards which is liked by many fans. His dynamism, willingness to take chances and shoot are also favoured by fans. His game does increase the risk of turnovers and I agree that he is not as press resistant as some of our other MFs. He has also had injuries and therefore needs to be managed carefully.

    3. I do not agree with anything you wrote except your sentence after “no” but at least you’re objecting to what you believe his inadequacies on the pitch to be rather than the fact that he has been injured in the past and that, forbid, he may get injured again if he is utilized.

  4. The hype on Smith Rowe is too much from the fans side the kid still needs to be protected by the coach because the coach always has the final say on who he picks to start, the coach resently has changed his tactics to suit tall players that’s why he also bought Raya who is suitable for long accurate passes and also target man in the form of Havertz who will receive those long passes,those who are hopping to see Smith Rowe start games soon will be disappointed, arsenal have scored lots of goals this season from set pieces Kai hasn’t but he still great space so as the likes of Saliba, Gabriel,Rice and Jesus to score goals Havertz is important to Artetas game plan so you will see him Start games just like Raya though fans want Ramsdales to start.

    1. So sorry to disappoint you but Kai Havertz was a waste of money, simple as not worth £65 million, if he was coming as a free transfer then yes but there’s nothing outstanding about him – terrible signing

  5. Havertz played from the beginning of the game, hence the more comprehensive stats

    I’d like to see how Smith-Rowe would fare if he becomes a starter in the left-sided AM position, then we could compare his stats with Havertz’s

    1. Me too I want to see how ESR would perform. But the signs are positive more agile than Havertz and good turnings and control in tight space. But we need to see him in full game to be sure it’s not a flash in the pan. Then his fitness worries… I guess Arteta is also trying to manage that aspect.

  6. The fans who are calling for the Kai to benched are the people who can’t see his off the ball work as well as the 1-9 pass tactic from Arteta

  7. Havertz worst player we have purchased since pepe and Smith rowe is real quality given the time wasted on Havertz

    1. Ian i have never seen the quality you are talking about, Havertz and Jorginho won Chelsea a champions League trophy how comes they aren’t good enough for you to see thank God Arteta see that that’s why he bought Havertz the position i personally want arsenal to strengthen is CF that’s where we have real issue Havertz is a good player and not worst as you put it.

      1. And the same Chelsea sold him for what reason? Can you remind us?
        Well, it will be better if you come back to reality instead of being stuck in a delusional fantasy of Havertz and Jorginho being good enough for us.
        Then people like you wonder why we can’t seem to level-up to the likes of City and Liverpool or put up a convincing title challenge.
        Be sincere with yourself, will any of the managers of the above mentioned teams ever take any one of the two player you are so confident are good enough for us?

  8. With Elneny and Jorginho soon to depart and Partey on the fringes, Arsenal should go all out for Mats Wieffer of Feyenoord.

    He’s 24, 188 tall, Dutch international. 5th in tackles, 3rd in progressive passes, 2nd in interceptions, 4th in aerials won for midfielders. Great passer too. What strikes me is that he has these stats going for him and he plays for a team who are 2nd in the league. Usually the players playing for mid- or lowtable teams rack them up as they don’t have the possession.

    I read Fulham is monitoring him for Palhinha replacement and I can see why. He’s very, very much like Palhinha. We really should go for a player of his stature BEFORE his transfer to PL and value skyrocketing. Made this mistake with Palhinha for sure.

    1. DaJuhi arsenal for years have missed to sign top players and instead go for players which eventually flopped but hope that will change for good with Edu and Arteta in charge, the player you mentioned will be good replacement for both Partey and Elneny as for Jorginho we already have our own Patino to replace him.

  9. People forget that in 21/22 season ESR scored 10 goals in 30, the same as Saka, the two of them basically carried us out of our decades long slump and led to their famous chant. He was labelled the best player in the Premier League with the ball at his feet by pundits. Then he got injured.!!! How on earth do we not give the guy another chance to recover that form!!!

    1. Butt,butt,butt he’s been injured in the past, once major, and more than once, gasp! MA MUST be correct in what he’s doing/not doing.
      No one outside the club knows for certain the reasons why he has been handled in the way he has but from the outside looking in I fully agree with your comment.

    2. Where did we finish with that? He scored 10 goals and we were losing games. Bandwagon fans. Havertz is one of our most important player because he so dynamic gives options to the team. You guys should just stop all this nonsense of havertz this havertz that. If Havertz is that bad why is it that very coach he played for played him. Stop following bandwagon pundits and support the team to win us a trophy this season.

      1. If you HONESTLY think HAVERTZ, of ALL players in the entire Prem is “dynamic”, then I suspect you mistakenly believe that “dynamic” means coasting and lacking energy!!
        “Dynamic” indeed!!!
        Hilarious and laughable!

        1. What do you even mean by lacking energy? stats dose not support your argument of him lacking energy. Havertz is so dynamic technically and tactically.

      2. Tactically and technically, even stats don’t suggest or support your bandwagon narrative. Delusional Chelsea fans trolling emotional Arsenal fans. This guy won Chelsea the vucking champions league was their top scorer in a shit Chelsea team. Let me ask you a question. Your best signings in the modern era what have they won? And the worst signing of the modern era has champion league medial around his neck not alone that he scored the winning goal.

      3. @chidi36, i agree on fans being harsh on Havertz but i think your claim on ESR’s contribution in our struggling years is rather harsh and unjustified, considering we don’t have a squad as strong as this back then.

  10. My Gran could replace Havertz.
    What a terrible player and a complete throwaway of 65 million plus top wages.

    Really can’t understand Arteta, why would he sign a player who has never shown any decent form since he came to this country ?

    Another player we will have trouble moving on without taking a big loss.

  11. Give ESR the wasted opportunities given to Harvertz and see him amaze his critics. We know what ESR can bring to the club but no one is sure of what Harvertz will bring. What a waiste !

  12. I agree with you Darren N.
    According to your article write up, it’s inferred that Havertz and ESR were both average in their performances in Arsenal’s Epl home match against Crystal Palace. And it is true they were.
    Hitato, there were opinions made in in some quarters of the football game opinionists. Who opinnionated that ESR be given game time to play. And Arteta responded by giving him 20 minutes + to play in the C Palace match in which he played averagely.
    But if he remains at Arsenal this winter window. But not be sold or loaned out. And be is doing toply well in training sessions and also remain fit. Arteta will surely be giving him game time to be playing regularly. So that he’ll attain top form level again. After which Arteta will decide on giving him a game start to start.

  13. There’s just no way Kai havertz is better than ESR in that position. Havertz should play elsewhere not there!!!

  14. Changes of personnel should be made based on opponents and tactics for that specific game!

    This is my biggest gripe with MA, refuses to change anything regardless of our opponents strengths and weaknesses. This is the exact reason why we look great 1 week then terrible the next.

  15. You guys is always picking on Havertz and that is laziness. I’m sick of it. Every of our game win or loss think of any player to pick on easy target Havertz. I want to plead with you guys to do this. List all our players and there stat I want to see something. Goals scored, assist, ball recovery, shot blocked etc. It so easy for people to join the bandwagon to pick on Havertz without the bigger picture. This guy won Chelsea the champions league. was there best player for two or three seasons he was there. Please do an article on stat of all our players this season.

      1. Even on this game He was still one of our best player. He did everything he was suppose to do. Is just laziness to always pick on Havertz.

          1. No – only those who need to have a scapegoat!!
            Havertz was one of your better players against Palace.
            If one wants to compare ESR with anyone, then it should be Odegaard and, if MA finally rktafes his squad properly, we would see those two creating the chances.
            Havertz has been on a hiding to nothing since arriving and it’s the same mob mentality that we saw with Xhaka (same “fans” as well!!) going for him.

            Just to make clear, I wouldn’t have bought him, but5ges one of our players now and we should treat him as such.

    1. How did Havertz win the CL for Chelsea? Because he scored a solitary winning goal?

      And for you to claim he was Chelsea’s best player for “two or three seasons” clearly shows you weren’t watching Chelsea matches.

      Chelsea put Havertz on the sales block because he, along with a couple of other players, were turned out to be terrible purchases.

      1. Yet it took three years to work this out?
        I suggest you look at what was going on at chelsea during his time there and EVERY player was below par.
        Has Havertz not improved since arriving here, or are you to blinkered to realize this simple fact?!

      2. Terrible purchases won champions league and now Chelsea is a fantastic team, I laugh in Chinese. Because he scored a solitary winning goal, yes. If our Henry scored all the chances he had against Barcelona in 2006 Arsenal will be champions league winner. All I’m saying you guys should stop all this scapegoating Havertz and support the team.

    2. Chidi 36, Chelseas “best player” for two or three seasons he was there??
      Ye Gods, what a left field opinion, shared by HARDLY ANY GOONERS AT ALL.
      Actually, it WAS three seasons and he was “pants” most of the time.

      I reckon you and the vast majority of our fans live on different planets from each other.

      I am firmly here on EARTH, along with the vast majority of our fans, who naturally prefer ESR!

      1. @jon fox Havertz has played 20 premier league games 4goals 1assist, 6 champions league games 1goal.
        Rice has played 21 league games 3goals 2assist 6 champions league games zero goal zero assist.
        Who cost more again? delusional fans. yes I live on different planet because I am not a bandwagon fans i watch football for how is played technically and tactically not with unnecessary emotions. Havertz gives more than any other ARSENAL player technically and tactically.

        1. You are in reality comparing cheese with cauliflowers and as such it is totally meaningless.
          You TOTALLY IGNORED the fact that Rice plays in a more defensive role than HAVERTZ.


          As all bright fans would EXPECT, naturally an attacking midfielder who often plays further forward would be EXPECTED to score and assist more than a deep holding midfield.
          Therefore, “cheese and cauliflowers” which is daft and unthinking.

          TELL ME HOW MANY INTERCEPTIONS AND EXCELLENT TACKLES Havertz has even attempted , let alone made!

          1. Player CM KG Apps Mins Tackles Inter Fouls Offsides Clear Drb Blocks OwnG Rating
            1Oleksandr Zinchenko
            27, D(L),M(CLR)
            175 64 15(4) 1298 2.3 0.7 0.3 0.2 0.7 0.7 0.1 – 6.87
            2Bukayo Saka
            22, D(L),M(CLR)
            178 72 20 1758 2.1 0.4 1.2 0.1 0.4 1 0.1 – 7.53
            3Declan Rice
            25, D(C),DMC
            185 84 21 1819 2 1.5 0.8 – 1.6 0.7 0.3 – 7.21
            4Thomas Partey
            30, D(R),M(CR)
            185 77 3(1) 252 1.5 1 – – 0.5 0.5 0.3 – 6.95
            5Martin Ødegaard
            25, AM(CR)
            178 68 18 1601 1.4 0.3 0.9 – 0.2 1.3 0.1 – 7.13
            6Ben White
            26, D(CR),DMC
            186 76 18(2) 1568 1.2 1 0.5 0.3 1.8 0.6 0.7 – 6.74
            7Gabriel Jesus
            26, AM(LR),FW
            175 73 12(4) 1021 1.2 0.4 1.4 – 0.4 0.6 0.1 – 6.97
            8Gabriel Magalhães
            26, D(C)
            190 78 17(2) 1545 1.2 0.9 0.7 0.4 2.3 0.1 1.1 – 6.92
            9Kai Havertz
            24, M(CR),FW
            193 83 14(6) 1244 1.1 0.6 1.2 – 0.4 0.6 0.1 – 6.62

            1. Please don’t be fixated with stats. They don’t paint an accurate picture. At best, stats can only provide a vague assessment of a player. That’s why clubs still heavily rely on scouts over data miners to identify quality players. Even with the most advanced technology, no amount of data analysis can compare to judging a player by watching how he plays, if the assessor knows his football.

              For those who feel that stats rule, if you believe in ranking players based on stats, do you know that stats wise, Saliba is inferior to Magalhaes and is not even among the top 5 centre backs in the Premier League this season? Squawka used an extensive amount of stats to rank the Premier League’s best centre backs in 2023/24. As of 21 December 2023, after half a season, the top 5 centre backs are Cristian Romero, Virgil van Dijk, Thiago Silva, Ezri Konsa and Gabriel Magalhaes.

              Despite a highly comprehensive analysis of 30 different metrics that include ground and aerial duel win %, interceptions, last man tackles, discipline, clearances, long ball accuracy, forward pass accuracy, etc, Saliba could not make the top 5. This is perhaps contrary to the perception of almost all Arsenal fans who view Saliba as the crown jewel of our defense. Most would certainly consider him a better centre back than Magalhaes, yet the stats say otherwise.

              So my question is, do stats paint an accurate picture or are we all clueless with football?

              1. How do you measure a player? What are the metrics. I don’t think perception is. Perception is what is making most of your guys so critical of havertz. Perception is what is making most of you guys think that Saliba is better than Magaihaes. fortunately data is the metrics and suggests otherwise.

                1. too4, Chidi36 was ASKED to look at the stars abd he provided them!!
                  What you should be asking yourself is this – why does MA place so much faith in him, as he also did with Xhaka, while a section of “fans” believed he got it wrong with both if them?
                  Humble pie was eaten regarding Xhaka and we will, possibly, see it happens again.

  16. Why not rotate ESR and Havertz, depending on our opponents? Maybe that is what Arteta is thinking.

    Personally ESR would be a good shout for the game against Forest.

    Maybe even a good halftime sub in the Liverpool game; speed up or buildup and punish Liverpool when they throw everybody forward.

    A time and place for players and positions, hopefully Arteta can make good decisions about utilizing both, rather than stubbornly saying one over the other as a 1st choice.

  17. 4 out of 5 passes is to the back. He lacks the confidence needed to turn on a dime and attack the defence or look for the killer pass to any of the forwards. He slows down our tempo especially when there are attackers waiting to receive the ball he’s sending backwards.

    Havertz would not get into the first team of a club fighting for the league. No one understands why Arteta keeps keeping him in ours.

    1. Wasn’t he in the club that won the CL then?
      “Nobody” understood why MA kept Xhaka at The Arsenal, until he was proven correct.
      By the way, where do you get the idea that “nobody” understands?

  18. Arsenal wasted time much money on Khai. Now we can’t afford a striker as well as proper CM to play alongside Rice. What is it that Khai is good that no other MF would be able to do? Apart from his height which he doesn’t even make use of, what else does he offer? Dribbling, Shooting, Passing, creating chances, Scoring goals, Ball recoveries?
    Surely J20 alongside DR41 would see so team shape being gained & more threatening forward play.
    I hope one day Arsenal will move Khai on & use the little that can be savaged to bring a proper CM/CF, the two + 1 ( LB ) of the three slots that are not fully covered.. ES

  19. Based on the headline, I disagree. ESR should not be in the starting line up. But sub for a longer period. Maybe brought on at the 60 minute mark for the next game when opposition starts to tire and then maybe a full 2nd half for the following game depending on his fitness.
    What I don’t like is giving ESR 3 minutes or 10 minutes. That is what I call a wasted substitution. He is going to try and impress in a short time and then get injured again.

  20. Yes, I hear people talking about not suitable for our fast game. ESR needs to play more frequently in order for him to be inline with the fast-moving of the play. He’s capable of doing so.

  21. Both lads are very similar, except the fact that ESR is more comfortable on the ball,better shooting accuracy and thanks to his smaller size he has the ability to run into space and get on the end of brilliant moves than Havertz. Havertz offer more defensively,win aerial duels thanks to his height,can also be a target man if deployed. Forget what you’ve seen so far though, Havertz is a great finisher. if you know, you know.

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