Match made in heaven: Manchester City can bring the best out of German star


It is a doubtless fact that Kai Havertz will soon be at a powerhouse club. The German seems destined for a big move away from Bayer Leverkusen. Sooner or later, it will happen. It is only a matter of when rather than if, as things stand.

The way he has been lighting up the Bundesliga over the last two years is eye-catching. For a player of his age, that is very rare.

Reports for German outlet BILD recently claimed that as many as six clubs are after the playmaker. That includes Liverpool, Chelsea, Manchester City, Manchester United and Real Madrid. While those are massive names, in the end, it has to be one club. And there is every reason why that one club should be Manchester City.

There should be no problems with money when it comes to the Citizens. And Havertz’s wages should not be a problem at all for them too. But questions are bound to pop up as to how Havertz can settle in at the Premier League Champions in a tactical sense.

But to be fair, it won’t be too much of a problem for any of the parties. Since making his Bundesliga debut as a skinny, scrawny teenager in the 2016-17 season, Havertz has been an attacking midfielder. Even though he can play on the right, his main position has always been attacking midfield.

His emergence took place around the exit of Roger Schmidt’s era, as a period of transition came in.

The club lost the identity that Schmidt had given them. He had played a role in establishing Leverkusen as a regular top four/five club. But his exit had left Leverkusen as a midtable club. RB Leipzig’s emergence and the consistency achieved by Hoffenheim under Julian Nagelsmann wasn’t of help at all either.

Around the turn of this past year, former Borussia Dortmund and Ajax boss Peter Bosz came to the BayArena. The club was struggling in the league and there was no system or style. Bosz came in and brought in a style right away.

Bosz is known for a Dutch way of football. His teams like to keep possession while playing in a 4-3-3 shape. And soon, Havertz and Julian Brandt became different beasts in that systm.

The German duo began to be used as central attacking midfielders, with Charles Aranguiz behind them. In possession, they had loads of the ball. They had loads of space in front of them to operate. More than that, they had 4-5 runners in front of them to pick out.

That brought the best out of Havertz. He came up with a career-high tally of 17 goals last season. Bosz’s system helped Brandt and Havertz thrive when nothing was going right for them under previous boss Heiko Herrlich.

In the second half of the Bundesliga campaign, from matchday 18 onward, Havertz had a hand in 12 goals in total. He was a central figure in taking Leverkusen to the top four. The system relied on pressing up the pitch and winning the ball as close to goal as possible. It was typically Dutch and Havertz was reborn. Rather, the real Havertz took birth.

This season, Havertz has been involved in only four goals in all competitions. But that lack of contributions is also down to being used in different positions. Bosz, having seen that Leverkusen concede too many goals in a 4-3-3, has been changing the formation around too. It has been a period of adjustment.

They did start with a 4-3-3, but after a damaging 4-0 loss to Borussia Dortmund, Bosz brought in a change. As things stand, they seem settled on a 4-2-3-1 shape. But the basic idea is the same – keep possession of the ball and play attacking football.

Despite that, Havertz has been showing how he has improved his final product. He is playing more key passes per game this season than he ever has (2.3). He is also completing more dribbles per game than ever (2.1).

That is very much reminiscent of Manchester City and Pep Guardiola. City have had 61.1 percent of average possession per game in the Premier League his season. Leverkusen have that number at 60.1. It shows that there is a similarity in approach.

Like Bosz did last season, City play with two central attacking midfielders in Kevin de Bruyne and David Silva. They have loads of possession and loads of players to look out for. Bernardo Silva, like Havertz, can play in the De Bruyne role and can either play wide.

That is the sort of system that can bring the best out of a technical player like Havertz. He can dictate play and command possession. If Manchester City struggle to replace David Silva in the future, Havertz should be the man for them.