Kai Havertz has completed his evolution into Arsenal's starting striker

  • Kai Havertz has completed his transition to the ideal striker for Arsenal, much like Robin van Persie once did
Arsenal FC v Chelsea FC - Premier League
Arsenal FC v Chelsea FC - Premier League / Julian Finney/GettyImages

It's no longer an experiment, Kai Havertz has become the ideal frontman for Arsenal. He's mastered the Robin van Persie-style transition he was always destined to make.

Kai Havertz was always the striker Mikel Arteta needed. Two more goals against his old club Chelsea didn't prove that statement true. They merely reinforced the words.

Ever since Arteta signed the Germany international for a fee in a neighbourhood somewhere north of £60m, Havertz was destined to become a full-time frontman. Fated to make the same switch Robin van Persie once did for Arsene Wenger.

That transition is now complete after Havertz added to his recent prolific haul in front of goal. His brace during the 5-0 win over Chelsea on Tuesday gave Havertz more goal contributions than recent appearances in England's top flight.

A striker who can operate as a ruthlessly efficient No. 9, while also fulfilling the remit for creativity of a 10. Sounds like peak Van Persie to me.

A couple of factors have helped Havertz finally find his stride as a striker who could save Arsenal a fortune.

Mikel Arteta has committed to striker role

It took a while, but Mikel Arteta has just about fully committed to playing Havertz as a striker. And for good reason. The attempts to make the former Chelsea man Granit Xhaka 2.0 never looked like working, while Gabriel Jesus' injury record and erratic finishing necessitated something different at the business end of the pitch.

Not only is Havertz better when he plays up front, Arsenal are a better team when he's leading the forward line. Not that Arteta doesn't need a reminder on occasion.

The recent decisions to shift Havertz back into midfield for Premier League games against Aston Villa and Wolves backfired. Yes, the Gunners ground out a rugged 2-0 win at Molineux Stadium, but the performance was more stuttering than fluid.

Contrast the disjointed, lurching football against Wolves with the slicker, stylish stuff from more emphatic victories. Like when Arsenal swept Brighton aside 3-0 at the start of April.

The result was made possible by clever running from Havertz. His movement created chances for some, while giving others an easy pass, moments explained by Art de Roché of The Athletic:

"Brighton’s early confidence meant Arsenal’s attack was not as fluid to begin with, and it was the German’s runs in behind that helped disrupt matters. This led to Havertz crossing for Jesus in the first half but the Brazilian misdirected his header. (...) With Saka on the floor, Jorginho overlapping made up Odegaard’s mind. He had to play that pass. Havertz’s double movement to find space in the six-yard box was similarly instructive for Jorginho, resulting in an easy finish to put Arsenal in total control."

Art de Roché

Two instances from the same game highlighted how much Havertz up front helps Arsenal function effectively in the final third. His utility to the Arsenal attack is defined by his running.

There's a single-mindedness to Havertz's movement. It's almost always directed at getting into the opposition box. Preferably, arriving in those positions sure to yield the biggest scoring threat.

This direct ingenuity has been a function of Havertz's game since his Chelsea days. An active streak highlighted by OptaJoe shortly after Havertz swapped west London for N5.

Being a tireless and intuitive runner helps, but a striker's movement is only valuable the more it's rewarded with goals. An improved finishing touch has helped Havertz reach new heights.

Experience has made Havertz a better finisher

To be more accurate, experience and opportunity have made Havertz a better finisher. He was getting into exceptional positions early in his Arsenal career. Remember the Community Shield against Manchester City? Havertz routinely arrived in scoring areas at Wembley, only to fluff his lines in front of goal.

The more he's played up top, the more comfortable Havertz has become taking his chances. Both of his goals against Chelsea showed his growing confidence.

A typical peach of a pass from Martin Odegaard created the first, but what Havertz did next, more specifically how he made that pass count, was arguably more impressive. The first touch was neat and sure, while Havertz then used his strength to body Marc Cucurella, before lofting the ball over Dorde Petrovic.

This was top-level centre-forward play, but there was more of that to come.

Havertz ghosted off the back of his marker and produced another deft touch before sweeping a finish into the bottom corner for his second and Arsenal's fourth goal.

This whole movement, the stop-start run, the one-touch-and-hit finish, personified a striker playing at the peak of his powers.

Long may it continue.