Allow me to rewind a week ago, and I am sitting on my sofa, circa 10:30 pm, and am trying to digest that bonkers game at Anfield on Wednesday night; a game that I thought almost perfectly encapsulated our entire season. Some very good moments going forward, some awful ones at the back, and conceding from just about every half chance we gave away.
A thought then crossed my mind. If someone from Mars or a parallel universe had been watching that game with literally zero knowledge of either team and upon the final whistle, you explained to this person that the team in blue had already agreed on deals to sign two new forwards, at a cost of close to £90m. Also, a third deal in the works, for roughly the same amount, for a third player, another attack-minded player at that, was looking more and more likely, and all the while no defensive (including GK) reinforcements of any kind had been agreed or look remotely close, he would think that the management, board, whatever, are all mad.
Things brings me on to the impending arrival of Kai Havertz to Stamford Bridge, in what would be a club record deal from Leverkusen, in the region of anywhere between £75-£100m depending on what you believe or read. I have to admit, I have seen very little of Havertz actually playing football, barring a bit of the German Cup final and a few YouTube clips. So, focusing on two areas; one being the practicality of the signing, and the second being what he will bring to the table.
Practicality of the deal
At first glance, and what I alluded to above, it would seem to spend more money, and a lot of it, on another attack-minded player is a bit bonkers. It is a bit like spending 25k on a brand-new BMW, when you already have a car that works, whilst the roof of your house leaks every time it rains. In Havertz’ position(s) Chelsea currently has a choice from Mason Mount, Ruben Loftus Cheek, Ross Barkley, Hakim Ziyech, Callum Hudson-Odoi, Christian Pulisic and potentially Willian if he stays. Not to mention Timo Werner who can also play out wide. Hardly a shortage of options, albeit with question marks hanging over one or two, for varying reasons.
That said, it feels like with Havertz the time to strike is now. In the current uncertain economic climate, there are few clubs that can afford to spend this sort of money on a player who is clearly regarded as a special talent and is destined for big things. If we hold off now, perhaps the chance goes forever and suddenly he is wearing the white of Real Madrid, or even worse, the red of Manchester United, and buying him thereafter becomes an impossibility. This is where my analogy falls down somewhat. As the song goes, “there’s only one Kai Havertz”, but you can get your roof fixed anytime you want.
What the German international will bring
Moving onto the playing side, we have been lacking a goal-scoring, creative midfield player for a while, now. Lampard himself left six years ago, whilst others have tried with mixed results. Oscar failed to realise his full potential, Loftus-Cheek has stumbled from injury to injury, whilst Barkley continues to show glimpses but far too infrequently. Only Mount has shown any sort of consistency, and it would be wrong to continue to rely on one such inexperienced player when we will be looking to play 50-60 games a season.
Going back to Antonio Conte’s first season, lack of goals from midfield wasn’t much of an issue, as the front players were notching frequently. Even the defence stood fairly firm after switching to a back three following a 3-0 defeat away at Arsenal. In Conte’s second season, Diego Costa departed, and goals started to dry up across the pitch where a lack of a midfielder chipping in started to become a problem, especially when we reverted to a 3-5-2. Under Maurizio Sarri, little changed in this regard. The CFs, whoever they were, didn’t deliver, Pedro and Willian both another year past their best and the burden on Eden Hazard was enormous. Luckily, the Belgian magician stepped forward. Discounting penalties, Jorginho, Matteo Kovacic and N’Golo Kante contributed five league goals last season, and four this season. That is not to say they aren’t good players in their own right, and each have important qualities that they can bring to the side. Goal scoring just isn’t one of them.
Whilst understandably, the defence and GK have been the targeted area by fans and pundits alike (conceding our highest number of Premier League goals in over 20 years), it’s also worth considering where we might have finished had we not drawn a blank at home to West Ham, Bournemouth, Southampton and away at Newcastle. Moreover, there were plenty of other games we didn’t kill off when we had the chance, and we ended up dropping points in games we largely dominated.
If Havertz can help alleviate the burden on the front players, it will fix a problem we have had for several seasons. Although the cost is high, at his age he could play for the club for a long, long time, or indeed will still have high resale value for anything up to around six seasons. I just hope we get the roof fixed. It has been raining. A lot.