Chelsea star Kai Havertz (left) with head coach Thomas Tuchel following the win over Everton.
When Chelsea’s starting line-up was revealed ahead of Monday evening’s clash against Everton at Stamford Bridge, it is fair to say that eyebrows were raised and heads were turned.
After such a dominant performance and victory against Liverpool at Anfield last Thursday evening, many expected Thomas Tuchel to stick with the same side that had performed so well against the reigning Premier League title holders.
However, in what has been a familiar tale in the German’s tenure so far, he elected to make changes, but as many as five was seen as a bold move, especially for a game of such magnitude.
But to Tuchel’s credit, his decision paid off, as the Blues strolled to another victory and another clean sheet, meaning they moved four points clear of Everton in the race for a top-four finish.
Whilst the former Borussia Dortmund and Paris Saint-Germain chief opted to rotate at left wing-back, bringing Marcos Alonso back in place of Ben Chilwell, and in central-midfield, with N’Golo Kante dropping out in place of Mateo Kovacic, it was in the attacking-midfield role where the most surprising call was made.
Despite scoring the winner against Liverpool, Mason Mount was was handed a rest, dropping down to the bench in place of Kai Havertz.
Many expected the Germany international’s inclusion in the starting line-up to be a straight swap for the Blues academy graduate, but the former Bayer Leverkusen man was deployed slightly higher up the pitch, acting as a false nine.
Havertz was supported by Callum Hudson-Odoi and Timo Werner, despite the latter being considered as the more likely option to spearhead the forward line. However, Tuchel opted to deploy Havertz between the pair of them and roam across the front line acting as a false nine that would drift all over the attacking areas of the pitch.
To Tuchel’s credit, he nailed the decision as Havertz provided an excellent performance that saw him play key roles in both of Chelsea’s two goals.
For the first, he connected with Alonso’s centre and saw his shot deflect off Ben Godfrey and into the back of the net before he won a penalty in the second half after being brought down by Toffees shot-stopper Jordan Pickford.
In truth, it was arguably Havertz’s most complete performance since arriving at Stamford Bridge back in September, and it offered encouragement to the Blues’ supporters that he can now kick-on and make a real name for himself between now and the end of the campaign.
And for Havertz, playing in the false nine role suited him perfectly.
“I played like a false nine, I had the freedom to go everywhere I wanted to go, and I think that’s good for me,” said the Germany international.
“I like to have freedom on the pitch. I think I was lucky to score a goal but I’m very happy with the performance, not only from me but the whole group.”
Havertz’s deployment in the false nine position against the Toffees came less than a fortnight after Tuchel outlined his vision for his fellow countryman.
Ahead of Chelsea’s showdown with Manchester United, Tuchel gave a long and detailed answer on Havertz’s best role and what the future could hold for him, hinting that a role in the false nine position could suit him well.
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Speaking last month, the Blues boss said: “He is a unique player. It’s not so clear where he needs to settle, does he need to settle on one special position? Or is he kind of a hybrid player.
“Today, I would say he’s in between a nine and a 10, something in between.
“He’s very comfortable in the box, he’s very comfortable in high positions, he’s very good in offensive headers, he has good timing to arrive in the box, good finishing, good composure in the box, around the box, and very comfortable in high positions so between nine and 10.”