Chelsea have their own Robin van Persie who has handed Graham Potter a huge boost | Football | Sport
Home » Matches » Chelsea have their own Robin van Persie who has handed Graham Potter a huge boost | Football | Sport
Chelsea have their own Robin van Persie who has handed Graham Potter a huge boost | Football | Sport

Chelsea head coach Graham Potter needed something special to save him after a dismal run of form left his job under serious threat at Stamford Bridge. With three wins in the space of four games, things are looking a lot rosier for the west London club - and the reinvigorated Kai Havertz can take his share of the credit for embracing his talismanic role in their recent upturn.

The Blues have been waiting for nearly three years for Havertz to deliver on his huge £72million price tag after a mixed start to life at Stamford Bridge. At 23, he is far from the finished article, but the indicators suggest he is moulding himself into a striker in the style of Robin van Persie rather than Erling Haaland - and that can only be good news for his club.

Frank Lampard and Thomas Tuchel largely struggled to find a permanent spot for Havertz in their respective lineups, although he started the majority of their games. Sometimes he would be shifted onto the right side of the front three in a No 10 role, while at other moments he would be used as an isolated No 9.

Havertz often looked like a puzzle piece with jagged edges from being constantly jammed into spaces where he simply didn't fit. But under Potter, he is enjoying life as a deep-lying centre forward and his form has improved as a result.

Following a run of seven games without a goal, Havertz has now scored in three consecutive games after notching against Borussia Dortmund, Leicester and Everton. Some might point to the fact two of his three strikes have come from the penalty spot, but it should not undermine what has been a significant shift in his performance levels.

When Potter needed a statement display from his struggling stars to overturn the one-goal deficit against Borussia Dortmund in the Champions League, he got one from Havertz. The German was outstanding throughout the evening, providing movement in the channels, neat flicks to link the midfield and attack, and he held his nerve from the penalty spot to send Chelsea through to the quarter-finals.

In analysing his performance, Thierry Henry drew parallels with how Van Persie used to lead the line for Arsenal and Manchester United but warned Havertz needs to score more goals to justify being the leading man in Chelsea's frontline.

"I thought he was good on the first goal. You could see he held the ball ever so well," the Frenchman said earlier in March, working as a pundit for CBS Sports.

"It reminds sometimes a little, very little, of a Robin - the way he can hold the ball. Robin van Persie was very good with his left foot. The touch was always immaculate to drive, to bring people along.

"This is why I think out of the guy that used to be wingers or a No 10, he plays as a No 9 because back to goal, he can hold the ball well. Now he needs to make sure he can transform that into more goals because you can play off him."

After that memorable night under the lights, he has taken Henry's message on board. Against Leicester, Havertz produced a world-class finish - one that Van Persie would gladly take his hat off to - with a sublime lob on the volley.

That showed what he was capable of as a player who can produce special individual moments, and his penalty under immense pressure at Everton underlined his composure from the spot - both of which Chelsea desperately needed amid their struggle for goals.

Amongst the array of their star-studded arrivals following an eye-watering £600m spend from owner Todd Boehly, Havertz has been mentioned as one player who could be sacrificed to balance the books. Instead, he is shining the brightest of the lot under Potter - something the 47-year-old has been keen to highlight.

"He's in a really good place. Throughout this difficult period, he's given everything," Potter said after beating Leicester. "If you know you've got Kai's quality if you do that, things turn around for you. That's what it's done for him. It's a reward for his hard work."

With only seven goals in 26 Premier League appearances this season and 19 in total, Havertz still has some way to go to match Van Persie's record of 144. But in the same way that the Dutchman carried Arsenal for several years, it shouldn't be too long before Chelsea rise up the ranks - and the Germany star may be the one they have to thank.

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