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Has the real Kai Havertz finally turned up? £70m signing shines as Chelsea rout Palace

20:00 BST 10/04/2021
Kai Havertz Chelsea Crystal Palace Premier League 2020-21
The German has struggled since his big-money move from Bayer Leverkusen but he scored one goal and set up another in a 4-1 win at Selhurst Park

Crystal Palace 1-4 Chelsea: Match Statistics

Kai Havertz belatedly proved himself the scintillating attacking force the Premier League expected him to be with a dominant display in Chelsea's 4-1 rout of Crystal Palace on Saturday evening. 

The Germany international has endured a difficult debut season in England, after joining the Blues from Bayer Leverkusen last summer for £70 million ($91m). 

However, he opened the scoring at Selhurst Park and then set up Christian Pulisic for a goal as the visitors went about putting the game to bed by the break. 

Havertz, though, made the game worth watching from start to finish, as he was a constant threat to the hosts' defence. 

This was the kind of performance few Chelsea fans expected after watching the 21-year-old fail to show exactly why their club paid such a lofty fee for the versatile attacking midfielder. Indeed, this was the first time that Havertz had scored and assisted in the same Premier League game.

However, one man saw this performance coming: Thomas Tuchel. 

The Chelsea boss had taken Havertz off after an hour of Wednesday's Champions League win over Porto, replacing him with another struggling summer signing, Timo Werner.

The media have obviously been quick to draw parallels between the pair, and Tuchel admitted that he wasn't getting enough out of his compatriots.

However, Tuchel felt there was one key difference.

"Maybe Timo is missing a bit of confidence in his finishing but Kai, I feel he is very self-confident," Tuchel stated before the win over Palace, which saw Chelsea reclaim fourth place in the Premier League table from Liverpool. "There are no bigger concerns [with him]."

And Tuchel was right. Havertz certainly didn't look like a man short on confidence as he coolly slotted home the opener. 

He also deserved credit for the way in which he had won the ball back before beating Vicente Guaita with the most precise of finishes with his left foot.

Havertz quickly turned provide, slipping the ball inside for Pulisic, who smashed the ball home from close range to leave Roy Hodgson's side shell-shocked.

The first-half barrage would continue, with Kurt Zouma heading in Mason Mount's free-kick and although, Chelsea eased up in the second half, allowing Christian Benteke to pull a goal back for the hosts, Pulisic scored again with a tap-in from a Reece James cross to put a fairer reflection on the gulf in class between the two sides.

Havertz was key in that regard. Tall, quick and creative: he has all the tools to be what Tuchel describes as a hybrid No.9, and he carved out one chance for himself after another against Palace. 

Indeed, in the 22nd minute, he very nearly emulated Paul Gascoigne's famous sombrero goal against Scotland at Euro 96 by flicking the ball over one defender's ahead before trying to volley home.

It was quite the attempt for a player who had arrived at Selhurst Park without a goal in his previous 18 Premier League games. Of course, there were mitigating circumstances. 

Firstly, he had been deployed in a deeper role under former Blues boss Frank Lampard, while his campaign had also been interrupted by both injury and illness.

However, the word coming out of Chelsea was that Havertz was looking sharper and sharper in training, and the player himself seemed utterly disinterested in making any excuses for his poor form.

“Corona is now over, and I feel good now," he said last month. “I had a little injury in the past few weeks, but it’s now time to play well. I have to improve my game. It’s not been easy for me, but there are no excuses.

"I just have to keep on working and hopefully there will be a big turnaround soon.”

It arrived at Selhurst Park. Havertz was responsible for two goals, and he could even have scored a couple more. 

There were plenty of impressive performers in blue shirts, including Pulisic, who repaid Tuchel's faith in him with a dynamic display. Indeed, the American has made a strong case for inclusion ahead of Werner in the big games coming up.

Havertz, though, was the game's outstanding player. Encouragingly for Chelsea, he finally looks ready to add flair and finesse to a solid side that now looks perfectly equipped to secure a top-four finish in the Premier League and have a real crack at winning the Champions League. 

The real Kai Havertz finally seems to have turned up, and better later than never as far as Chelsea are concerned.