Kai Havertz exclusive: Chelsea forward reflects on his own form, playing as a false nine, and must-win matches
The finals are coming in quick succession for Chelsea.
Whether they are true finals, like Saturday’s FA Cup defeat to Leicester and next weekend’s Champions League showpiece against Manchester City, or must-win league matches in the top-four race, there’s huge importance on every 90 minutes the team play right now.
Their last eight fixtures read: London derby, Champions League semi-final, London derby, Champions League semi-final, Manchester City away, London derby, FA Cup final, crucial top-four clash.
The last in that list, the potentially pivotal 2-1 win over Leicester in front of 10,000 returning home fans at Stamford Bridge on Tuesday, has set up a final-day ‘final’ at Aston Villa. Win and Chelsea will be guaranteed third place and a Champions League spot for next season.
The FA Cup final loss hurt but a top-four finish would underline the impressive upturn in form under new boss Thomas Tuchel, who came in with Chelsea ninth in the table.
While the Champions League final – and the historic opportunity that presents – is just a few more days away, Chelsea’s players are zoning in on Sunday. Another final.
“Every game we play is like a final,” Kai Havertz tells Sky Sports during an exclusive interview. “We will go into this game like a final and we will give everything.
“[The Premier League win over Leicester] is what we wanted. It was a very important game for us to win. We showed a great team spirit, a great game on the pitch, and it was nice to have the fans back. The atmosphere was very good. But the job is not finished 100%. We have to go again on Sunday.
“After Sunday we can fully focus on the Champions League final but right now, in every player’s mind is only the game on Sunday.”
Havertz was unable to contribute to Chelsea’s win over Leicester due to a hamstring problem but, speaking to us after a Friday morning training session, he is confident of returning to action at Villa Park.
“I feel good, I was lucky it was only a small injury,” he says, before explaining why a top-four finish means so much to the modern player.
“For us it’s the most important thing,” he says. “You come here to Chelsea of course to win trophies but we knew that the first half of the season was not the best and now we’re in a place where we have to come to the top four.
“The title is gone for the season and we want to play Champions League next year, that’s 100% sure. Every player has the quality to play in the Champions League. We will give our best and hopefully we will end up there and play next year in the Champions League.”
The relentless run of high-pressure games appears to have formed a strong bond of togetherness among the Chelsea players. With a maturity beyond his 21 years, Havertz, when discussing frustrations about his own form this season, says: “Right now the most important thing is to finish well. You have to put your ego aside and give your best for the team.”
That attitude will please boss Tuchel but, such is Havertz’s talent, he will also be eager to see his player back fit for the last two ‘finals’ and back to his best on a more regular basis next season.
- Race for Europe – who needs what?
- Premier League table | Results | Fixtures
- Get Sky Sports | Get a Sky Sports Pass
Reflecting on his first campaign in England, Havertz says the coronavirus restrictions and the knock-on effect the pandemic had on a congested fixture schedule made his start to life at Chelsea tough.
However, with the support of friend, Germany team-mate, and fellow summer signing Timo Werner, Havertz feels he has been able to overcome those challenges and start to find his feet in the Premier League.
“To be honest, it’s very tough. It’s a big change,” says Havertz. “It’s very hard because you play every three days and the intensity here is much more than in Germany, to be honest.
“Of course it’s a big change for us but for me it always felt good to have Timo next to me because we can talk to each other. We were both in very difficult situations. He was also unlucky this season. But I think right now, for two or three months, we both play very well and I hope we can continue like that.
However, in a new, unfamiliar position, picked out for him by Tuchel, he has been able to show glimpses of his exciting ability.
“I would call it maybe a false nine,” he says, describing his central attacking role in Chelsea’s 3-4-2-1.
“I’m not the big guy in the middle like some strikers. I play the position a little bit different. That’s why it’s good we have a lot of quality players up front next to me, and it’s always easy to play with them.
“For me it’s a good position and I like it. I feel very comfortable there.
“I always like to go into the spaces and get the ball there and I like to play up front near to the goal, that’s also very good for me, so all in all I think I like the position and it suits me.”
Team-mate Mateo Kovacic has described Havertz as “the future of the club” and that false nine role, and how players fit in around him could be the key template for Chelsea, Tuchel and Havertz in the future.
But long-term plans must be put to one side in this moment. As Havertz says, right now the focus is on their next final at Villa Park.
Pitch to Post Preview – The Premier League final day race for European football assessed
In the final Pitch to Post Preview Podcast of the Premier League season we look ahead to the final day and debate which sides will come out on top in the race for European football.
From the three-way battle for two top-four places and Champions League football between Chelsea, Liverpool and Leicester, to West Ham, Tottenham and Everton vying for a Europa League place, and Arsenal’s chances of a Europa Conference League appearance, Sky Sports’ Nick Wright and Oli Yew join Peter Smith to assess the various permutations – and make their predictions!
The panel also reflect on another Premier League title win for Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City as they prepare to lift the trophy in front of their own fans on Sunday.
Listen to the Sky Sports Pitch to Post Podcast on: Spotify | Apple | Castbox
Source: Read Full Article