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By Tony Attwood
According to an article in the Athletic, Arsenal are signing (have signed, will sign) Kai Havertz and change the man who spent last season playing as Chelsea’s number 9 into what it calls “left 8” who will do the job that Granit Xhaka did last season. The price, they say is around £65m which is about the same price as Chelsea paid for the player three years ago.
However, some reports suggest Havertz has been offered a new contract at a lower salary, which means he is free to negotiate a new contract elsewhere. It is also stated that Chelsea want the deal done before 30 June so that the sale will appear in their 2022/3 accounts, thus reducing their FFP liabilities. Additionally, it is being said that Real Madrid and Bayern Munich would like to take the player but at a lower price. As the Telegraph said Chelsea agree Mateo Kovacic and Kai Havertz sales but reject second bid for Mason Mount.
There are also reports that Arsenal is becoming a much more attractive proposition for players these days because of the perceived revolution in tactics at the club, which Untold has been highlighting for several years. Indeed the successful rehabilitation of Granit Xhaka is just one more piece of evidence in terms of just how transformative the approach of Mikel Arteta is seen in international football (although less so in the UK media).
There of course is also the fact that Chelsea are now suffering from the situation Arsenal had last season which is a total absence of European football which makes them a far less attractive proposition as a transfer destination. Tottenham Hots seem to be in the same position – or possibly even a worse one as there is no confidence around that Tottenham have the money to buy the players that could lift them back into the top seven.
The Athletic has even gone so far as to set out the new tactical plan as Havertz playing as a left-sided No 8 being able to “join attacks from midfield, arriving late into the penalty area while Oleksandr Zinchenko or Kieran Tierney shift across from left-back into central midfield behind him,” utilising a comment Havertz made to the magazine in August 2021 that “More or less, I’m a midfield player but I like to go into the box”
The article also seeks to explain how the way most Premier League clubs play their centre backs is different from most of Europe with the emphasis still on big (but sometimes lumbering) centre backs who force attackers often to receive the ball with their back to goal. This it is said makes it difficult for some players coming in from Europe to adapt.
That of course and the shortness of time that the media and some supporters give players to adjust to the different style of play of Arsenal from Chelsea, before the torrent of criticism starts, could be a problem.
But the Athletic does admit that the Chelsea attack last season was “deeply dysfunctional” – and indeed a look at the table shows them with the 15th worst attack in the league, equal with Nottingham Forest, scoring one more goal than Bournemouth and just two more goals than relegated Southampton. (That is indeed a true reminder of just how awful Chelsea were last campaign). That level of play will not be experienced at Arsenal who were of course the second-highest-scoring team, 13 goals ahead of their nearest rival.
The point made is that the attacking shape of Arsenal last campaign was 3-2-5 “when the left-back, either Zinchenko or Tierney, moved into midfield and the two ‘free No 8s’ pushed forward into the half-spaces.” And the suggestion is that the player will fit into that.
To back this thought up, there are a huge number of statistics around concerning the player and from these various prognostications. But overall “there remains a distinct possibility that a different, more individually favourable football environment could unlock new levels in his game.”
But if this is a true review of the situation and of course assuming that the transfer is happening rather than being a piece of whimsy as most newspaper-reported transfers are, then there will be a period of adaptation for the player, and that will generate a lot of negativity in the media with the suggestion that this is just another Arsenal mistake and that Arteta has stupidly broken up a winning team. In return that will require Arsenal fans at the games to be supportive and positive of the player, accepting that he is changing his role and will need time to settle.
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