Thursday, June 20, 2024

Havertz, Xhaka and the 8

Good morning.

It looks as if Kai Havertz will be our first confirmed signing of the summer after it was reported yesterday that we’d reached full agreement with Chelsea to get the deal done. The fee is apparently £60m + £5m in add-ons which, to be honest, sounds expensive to me.

It’s a bit outside the range where I’d feel totally comfortable with it, but then it’s not my money so I don’t suppose I need to get overly stressed by it. Nevertheless, that is a marker for how people view transfers. Nicolas Pepe never shed the £72m fee we paid for him, and ultimately that was down to fact he didn’t really work out despite the initial excitement about his arrival. On the flip side, players like Aaron Ramsdale and Ben White sparked plenty of discussion about how expensive they were before we signed them, but nobody talks about the fees now because they’ve been very good for us.

So, let’s hope that as the season progresses, we’re talking about Kai Havertz and not £65m Kai Havertz. There’s a piece in The Athletic (£) from their Chelsea correspondent which suggests the German will be the Granit Xhaka replacement, which is quite interesting. We spoke about this on the Arsecast Extra on Monday and James’ Chelsea supporting brother wasn’t convinced this was within the player’s wheelhouse.

However, in trying to understand the vigorous pursuit of a player who has been somewhat underwhelming at Stamford Bridge, Mikel Arteta envisaging him in a very specific role does make sense. We know the manager is quite particular about what he wants and the skillsets he requires, so he must have a definite plan for this player. This is a serious financial investment (as it stands our second highest transfer fee ever after … erm … well, you know who), and it suggests greater involvement than simply providing us with a bit of depth and a possible plan B up front.

Whether or not you think Kai Havertz is a direct replacement for Granit Xhaka is almost a moot point. There are very clear differences between the players and the personalities. In terms of the latter, I think that Declan Rice has been earmarked to replace some of that dressing room presence, captain of West Ham and all that. What intrigues me isn’t so much the idea of Havertz slotting into that left 8 position and doing what Xhaka did, it’s what Arteta thinks he can bring – and that might be something quite different, and perhaps something that will see a shift in how we play.

This time last year we didn’t really think too much about what our left-back did. We all knew and understood the full-back role, because full-backs do what full-backs do. Then Arteta dealt his Zinky card, and it was transformative. I just wonder if, as he has thought about the qualities he wants from the player in Xhaka’s position, he’s seen something in Havertz that might allow him to do something similar. So, the Arsenal team with Xhaka in that position is one thing, with Havertz something else. I don’t think it can be wildly different, but a little extra would be sufficient.

It’s guesswork for now, of course. We won’t really know until we see how Arteta uses him in pre-season, but primarily once the real games begin and the season gets underway. My understanding is this could be closed in the next couple of days, but when we’ll get the announcement, I’m not sure. It is, as much as you can say this given the shifting sands of the transfer market, as close to a sure thing as you can get.

Beyond that, it’s fairly quiet beyond. Over on Arseblog News, Tim has a piece which details in the involvement of Arsenal players in the Women’s World Cup which kicks off next month. We’ll bring you any decent updates on transfer rumours over there, as and when they emerge.

Stand by for an extra Arsecast a little later this morning, and we’ll have a more football focused one for you tomorrow as well. Plus, as we always do every transfer window, we’ll have dedicated podcasts for each signing we make over on Patreon, so there could one of those coming your way soon.

For now, take it easy.

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