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Kai Havertz reacts to criticism of Arsenal after the Nottingham Forest game

Kai Havertz reacts to criticism of Arsenal after the Nottingham Forest game

Even with all the positivity around Arsenal right now, it seems there will always have to be a whipping boy. The Gunners have broken their club record transfer fee, beaten Manchester City in the Community Shield and look set to challenge for the Premier League, but still someone has to bare the brunt of fan anxiety.

Generally Eddie Nketiah has been the unfortunate fall guy. When the 24-year-old was named captain for the day in Arsenal’s pre-season friendly against Monaco, he was greeted with ridiculously harsh criticism from fans seemingly upset that one of their academy products had risen through the ranks to become an important first team player.

After Nketiah grabbed an impressive goal in Arsenal’s opening game of the Premier League season, the mob realised they couldn’t go for him this time. Quickly they found a new target – Kai Havertz.

The German arrived from Chelsea in the summer for £65million, and despite scoring twice in pre-season there are still a few doubts that seem to be spilling over into disapproval. He has been welcomed positively by those in the Emirates Stadium, but online it’s sometimes been a different story.

Even after an impressive showing up front against City in the Community Shield last week, Havertz came in for plenty of criticism for not being able to put his chances away. A week later in his Premier League debut for Arsenal against Nottingham Forest, and it was arguably even worse.

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The German didn’t really do much wrong in the game. He was quiet in comparison to the eye-catching Gabriel Martinelli and Bukayo Saka, but he was still able to offer something with runs in behind and aerial threat from set pieces. It was far from the greatest performance of all time, but from the reaction he has received since it would seem that many are labelling him an instant flop.

“I don’t understand what Havertz gives us,” was Piers Morgan’s review. Shaka Hislop meanwhile joined in the pile on, saying: “I can’t think of a single thing that Kai Havertz did of note in his first match for Arsenal.” You can maybe accept this from outside observers, but Arsenal fans then began falling over themselves to proudly declare their agenda against the German no matter what he does this season.

This is ridiculous. The reality is that it has been just over one month since Havertz joined up with his new teammates. Unlike at Chelsea where he was largely played up front, he is now operating primarily in midfield. That will take time to adapt to, and it’s something Havertz himself has admitted.

“Last year I came more off the No.9 but I am used to this midfield position because I played there from a young age,” he told in Nuremberg after Arsenal’s 1-1 draw there in July. “Now it’s time to just get all the movements back into my brain and hopefully it will be good on the pitch.”

Perhaps we can revisit this conversation in six months’ time when there is a far wider body of evidence to draw conclusions from. But to go in on Havertz with the degree of vitriol he has received over the past few weeks feels fast at best and foolish at worst. It’s taken plenty of players a while to adapt to Mikel Arteta’s complex style of play. The German deserves to be afforded the time he says he needs before being written off straight away.


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