Havertz can save Chelsea career and repay Potter in Leicester clash
Potter hails Chelsea's character after beating Dortmund
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After his midweek Champions League heroics against Borussia Dortmund, Kai Havertz is likely to be entrusted to lead the Chelsea attack once again as Graham Potter’s side take the trip to the Midlands to face Leicester City. It is another chance for the Blues to get three points on the board after beating Leeds last time out, but for the German forward, it marks an opportunity to prove he is more than just a magician with one card trick.
When listing Havertz’s highlights at Chelsea in his third season at Stamford Bridge, it is easy to see why the German remains a divisive figure at the club: scored the winning goal to clinch the Champions League in May 2021, found the top corner with a peach of a goal in a crucial away win over Red Bull Salzburg in October 2022 and, more recently, sunk that crucial penalty against Dortmund to send Chelsea through to the quarter-finals.
The Premier League moments, however, are conspicuous in their absence – because they don’t exist.
His most recent league goal came seven games ago in the 1-0 win over Crystal Palace on January 15, a match in which the German forward could have easily ended up with a hat-trick but for some wasteful finishing. The last time he scored in back-to-back matches was a year ago after notching against Norwich and Newcastle last season.
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With six goals in 23 Premier League appearances, Havertz is only behind Raheem Sterling in the club’s goalscoring charts. But therein lies the problem that Potter may look to solve in the summer to follow Christopher Nkunku, as Chelsea have scored just 24 goals in 25 games this season. With Erling Haaland already on 27 goals and Harry Kane on 18 for Spurs, can Potter’s side afford to have Havertz returning single digits every season in the same position?
Some may believe that Joao Felix can provide the answer, but his return of just one goal in seven outings casts doubt on such a prediction. The Blues may also consider taking a punt on Napoli’s in-form striker Victor Osimhen as he closes in on 20 Serie A goals this season, and that would be all the more worrying for Havertz after another below-par return in Chelsea colours this season as speculation suggests he could be offloaded.
Of course, Havertz has scored goals in the Premier League – 17 in 80 appearances to be exact. But they have hardly arrived at the rate Chelsea expected when they invested £72million to sign him from Bayer Leverkusen. In the 2018-19 campaign alone, he scored 17 goals in the Bundesliga.
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Some sections of the fanbase believe that Havertz has largely escaped the brunt of criticism because of his decisive moments in the Champions League. And while it is safe to say those memories will remain implanted in the minds of supporters for decades to come, the 23-year-old will not need reminding that Chelsea fans demand a constant stream of big-game performances, rather than just one.
The fact that remains is Potter has stuck by Havertz, even when the goals dried up, and when his predecessors Thomas Tuchel and Frank Lampard might not have been so lenient.
He trialled Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang for a brief spell, but it quickly became apparent that the Gabonese was not the right profile for what Potter was trying to create. Havertz, as a deep-lying centre forward with fluid movement and creative tendencies, very much is.
When Potter needed a statement performance from the No 29 on Tuesday, he got it. Havertz was the outstanding performer against Dortmund, linking the midfield and attack with neat touches and flicks, and wreaking havoc with movement in the channels.
His goal from the penalty spot was deserved, not least because he had a scorcher ruled out for offside against Sterling, and his display highlighted exactly what he is capable of.
After the game, Havertz launched a stern defence his under-fire boss – perhaps with a sense of guilt and acknowledging that he had contributed in a small way to the pressure his manager had been under.
“We know the pressure is coming at him [Graham Potter], but you can see he is a big manager,” he told reporters. “In the media, I cannot believe how many people talk about him. We have hundreds of coaches in England that think they know better than him.
“We know he is a big personality, he has helped us so much, me personally as well. We are behind him, and even though the people do not see it, we all saw last night he is a big manager.”
Chelsea now have some momentum after crucial wins against Leeds and Dortmund, but their season has been so dire that they remain way off a top-four spot and even qualifying for Europe looks a tough challenge with Fulham, Brighton and Brentford all improving.
A win against Leicester would once again lift their spirits, and also relieve Potter of the burden of whether he may be sacked before the season is complete. The least Havertz can do is produce a repeat performance of his Dortmund heroics – not only for his loyal boss Potter but also to show once and for all he is the man Chelsea can rely on in the Premier League for years to come.
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