It’s a little too early (or late, depending on how you see it) to say Kai Havertz has arrived, but let’s ignite the beacons. It’s close.
Since his £71m move from Bayer Leverkusen, Havertz has shown glimpses of why he is widely seen as one of the game’s elite young talents, but none of those flashes were as bright as his showing in Saturday’s 4-1 win over Crystal Palace.
Operating in a false nine role, Havertz was given complete freedom of the pitch, allowing him to use his awareness of space to drop deep when needed or push forward if the chance arose, and Palace simply could not keep up with him.
So many of his flicked passes ended up leading to chances, including in the build-up to his own goal, which also saw him pressing hard to recover possession before slotting the ball into the bottom corner with an effortless strike.
It was an intensity and a composure that we haven’t seen from Havertz in England thus far, but it was hopefully a sign of things to come.
Some solid movement allowed him to bag the assist for Christian Pulisic’s first, but undoubtedly the best highlight came soon after when Havertz unleashed a glorious chapeau over Patrick van Aanholt’s head which nearly offered us the goal of the season.
To have the audacity to try that when things aren’t going your way speaks volumes of Havertz’s mentality both in general and on the day. He doesn’t care if things are rough, when he’s feeling it, he’s feeling it.
You can talk about the level of opposition all you want (there’s no denying Palace weren’t at the races), but this was Havertz at his absolute best. He wanted to make things happen and was feeling confident enough to pull them off.
“I cannot tell you the level that he will reach or how fast he can do it,” said manager Thomas Tuchel (via the club’s official website). “I can just repeat, when he stepped out of his comfort zone when he changed club from Leverkusen to Chelsea he absolutely wanted to challenge himself and now it’s on him to show the quality.
“He had showed it already against very strong opponents in Everton and Liverpool. He had a tough match against Porto and the speech was very easy: ‘go and show that you can do better and fight for your place, you get a second chance’.
“He knew that he had to be more ruthless in his finishing because he has that extra quality and I want him to show it. He is about controlling the ball, keeping the ball in difficult situations, having little runs in high positions to finish and assist. He needs to show up and show up and show up, this is life as an offensive player at Chelsea.”
For Havertz, the real challenge is bringing this level of performance on a consistent basis. He’s slowly starting to build up that much-needed momentum, and although he’s got a lot of work to do, opposition defenders will be starting to get scared.
As the spiritual heir to Eden Hazard’s throne at Stamford Bridge, Havertz has some enormous shoes to fill, but performances like this suggest he’s capable of doing it.