After his Champions League-winning goal against Manchester City in May, Kai Havertz was supposed to turn into a Chelsea superstar.
Unfortunately, fans are still waiting for that transformation to happen.
Havertz’s strike in Porto instantly became one of the most important in Chelsea’s history – but it felt like a pivotal moment in his young career, too.
When the Germany international was asked about previously having struggled to justify his £70 million ($97m) transfer fee amid the post-match celebrations, he enthused, “I don’t give a f*ck about that! I just won the Champions League!”
This summer, though, Blues boss Thomas Tuchel challenged the 22-year-old to forget about the importance of his goal in Portugal, and instead focus on deciding matches on a consistent basis.
Consequently, Havertz got his head down and worked hard when he returned to Chelsea after a disappointing Euro 2020 campaign with Germany. Behind the scenes, Tuchel and his coaching team were pleased with his pre-season.
However, after making an encouraging start to the 2021-22 campaign, with Havertz bagging an assist in the UEFA Super Cup final against Villarreal before opening his Premier League account for the season at Anfield, the former Bayer Leverkusen star has begun to struggle again.
“Maybe Kai [Havertz] and Hakim [Ziyech] lack a bit of form, confidence, and that’s why we went for the mix of Timo [Werner] with the speed and intensity of the ball,” Tuchel told BT Sport after dropping Havertz for last month’s league game against City at Stamford Bridge.
And though he was recalled to the line-up and played the full 90 minutes against Juventus in Chelsea’s last Champions League outing, there have been few signs of him recovering his position on a permanent basis.
His chances created-per-90 minutes has dropped from 1.1 in 2020-21 to 0.3 so far this term, while he is having fewer touches of the ball and winning fewer duels than he did throughout last season.
Such numbers mean that that he has struggled to strike up much of a connection with Romelu Lukaku, whose own form has also come under scrutiny after going six games without a goal.
Despite them playing 299 minutes together in the Premier League so far, Havertz is yet to complete a pass to Lukaku, leaving Tuchel scratching around for answers of how to get the best out of his club-record signing.
“I think that football right now is about connections. Romelu, I feel, has a strong connection with Mason Mount and Mateo Kovacic,” Tuchel said three weeks ago. “They look for each other and have an understanding.
“Everybody else maybe lacks it a bit, so they need to learn and understand and adapt to create better.”
Those creativity issues in forward areas have not been lost on Chelsea fans, who have seen defenders either score or assist 15 of their 19 goals in all competitions.
Havertz is not solely to blame for that, with Ziyech also struggling, Werner lacking the consistency to suggest that he can be a long-term partner for Lukaku up front, and Mount not showcasing the same form as last season, but one of them needs to grab that role and run with it sooner rather than later.
Given the price paid for Havertz, as well as that he is understood to be club’s second-highest earner behind Lukaku, the expectation should be that it is he who takes up the mantle, and there is a suggestion that some in the dressing room might agree.
His lack of output, along with Ziyech and Werner, is having an influence on the demands the likes of Antonio Rudiger and Andreas Christensen are making as they negotiate new contracts, with the defensive duo currently outperforming their attacking counterparts.
So what can Havertz do to get himself going once more?
“He does everything to reach this level again, and we do everything to help him. He’s an important player for our squad,” Tuchel insisted when asked about Havertz’s form by Goal .
“He had many games to start with. He started strong, and he was very stong in pre-season. The story has not changed, but he lacks the statistics of decisive things, of goals and assists. And he needs to fight his way back into the team to get minutes, and this can happen any time.
“We trust in him, and we believe in him. The rest has to come from him, and he’s willing to do so. He’s in a good shape, he’s in a good mental state, he knows what he’s fighting for and that’s the situation right now.”
Wednesday’s Champions League clash with Swedish minnows Malmo could offer Havertz the perfect opportunity to get back on track in the competition where he entered Chelsea folklore.
The Blues certainly need him step up, otherwise a repeat of their success of late last season could be tough to produce.