While Kai Havertz’s first season as a Chelsea player was punctuated by flickers of pure brilliance rather than illuminated by them, it ended in the best possible way.
In rounding Manchester City’s Ederson and rolling the ball into the gaping net for the winner in the Champions League final in May, Havertz may well have kick-started his Chelsea career.
One of the biggest hurdles that has faced the world’s most gifted players down the years is shining consistently, rather than in those flashes. All the signs in the weeks and months since that fateful night in Porto suggest the 22-year-old is on the path to overcoming that hurdle.
In a squad littered with attacking talents including Serge Gnabry, Leroy Sane and Thomas Muller, Havertz was arguably Germany’s best performer at Euro 2020 and finished his nation’s disappointing campaign as their top scorer
While he had often lacked the confidence to exhibit his undoubted technique and skill as he got to grips with the Premier League last season, it felt as though the swagger was back in his game.
Against England in particular, Havertz was a Rolls-Royce; operating between the lines, he was given the freedom of Wembley by Joachim Low, drifting around in the half-space, caressing through balls and gliding as he dribbled. A fingertip save from Jordan Pickford was all that came between him and a fine goal from a perfectly struck half-volley.
It is a shame that Havertz’s Euros would end prematurely because it felt as though – while he was already in his groove – he was about to reach another gear.
One month on, across north London, it was evident that it won’t take long for Havertz to hit those heights again. In a 45-minute cameo against Arsenal in the opening match of the pre-season Mind Series, and in his first Chelsea appearance since the Champions League final, Havertz picked up where he left off.
Deployed as a roaming false nine, the young German demonstrated both his development into a Premier League footballer and the confidence that Champions League-winning strike has given him. Again he flexed the attributes that made his display against England so easy on the eye, but with added braun in the form of hold-up play and strength – perhaps learned from the bygone Olivier Giroud.
But it is goalscoring that is becoming the most welcome trend with Havertz, and he obliged once again at the Emirates with a supremely confident finish. Capitalising on some incredibly lax defending from the Gunners’ back line, Timo Werner broke down the left before rolling the ball into his compatriot who was holding his run centrally.
With that Champions League confidence still coursing through his veins, Havertz took a touch out of his feet and crashed the ball into the roof of Bernd Leno’s goal despite the attentions of Kieran Tierney – an unerring finish from a player you feel we shall see the best of in 2021/22.
With the goals he is adding and based on the summer he has had, Havertz is beginning to look like a player who can put in a minimum 7/10 performance week in, week out – and the impact of a winning strike on club football’s biggest stage cannot be underestimated.