In recent months, Kai Havertz has been linked with a switch to Bayern Munich from Bundesliga rivals Bayer Leverkusen, with the German being classed as one of the best young talents in the world. Still only 20-year-old and only one and a half years remaining on his existing deal, it is no surprise that Die Roten are looking to bring in another young German talent. However, with the resurgence of Thomas Müller and the depth in Bayern’s midfield and attacking positions, it poses an interesting question in terms of how he would fit into their current system. In this tactical analysis, I’ll look at the playing style of Kai Havertz, how he could be used at Bayern Munich and the implications of this on Bayern’s tactics.
To begin this analysis, we have to take a look at how Havertz has been used under Peter Bosz at Leverkusen. Last year was the German’s breakout campaign, scoring 17 goals in the Bundesliga playing in multiple positions. He often played in his natural position as a number 10 but started to find a lot of success as either a number eight or a right-winger, contributing to 12 goals from 19 games from those positions.
This year, he has once again played a lot as an attacking midfielder but also a lot more as a right-winger. As is heat map shows, he likes to stay in the right-hand side of the field and either drift into the middle or affect the game from the winger position. He has often been compared to German players such as Michael Ballack or Mesut Özil but his playstyle is very similar to that of Bayern star Thomas Müller.
Under Bosz, Leverkusen like to play in many different formations which has meant that Havertz has had to adapt and play in different roles. This is a positive for Bayern given that Hansi Flick likes to do the same and has roles in his team that Havertz is capable of playing in at a high level.
Passing and vision
One of the German international’s best attributes is his passing ability. Playing as either a forward or an attacking midfielder, he has an incredible 87% pass accuracy. His 2.3 key passes per game value is superb too, which beats out the likes of Philippe Coutinho and Leon Goretzka but is slightly short of Müller’s 2.7 per game. His ability to read the defence and make difficult passes are very good especially at his age.
Here, Havertz receives a tough pass and is able to control the ball well. Before he receives the ball he recognises that the defender will close him down but is able to make a quick turn and play a perfect pass for his teammate to run onto. The chance ultimately went begging as the ball went out for a corner and Leverkusen were unable to capitalise.
He also has a good variety of passes and is capable of playing great long passes as seen in the example below. Here, Havertz picks up the ball in the middle of the pitch and spots Kevin Volland who is making a run. Despite the attacker being a couple of meters behind the defender, Havertz is able to find him with a superbly weighted long pass into Volland’s feet who is then able to have a great attempt on goal. At Bayern Munich, those kind of passes are at a minimum given that they are usually camped in the opposition’s box. However, against teams in the Champions League, it will be handy especially on the counter-attack.
Off the ball movement
As mentioned earlier, Havertz has a similar play style to Müller and one major quality they share is the ability to find space and use their footballing IQ to make great decisions. Havertz, like Müller, either drops deep into pockets of space in between the lines or is able to use his pace to make runs in behind.
In this example, Havertz drifts in between the lines and occupies a large space without being marked. In this case, the pass from his teammate is quite poor and is hit too hard for Havertz to adequately control and they lose possession. This is a common theme for Leverkusen where he is able to pick up these very promising positions only for the quality to let him down.
In this case, it is Havertz’s poor touch that ruins a chance. Once again, he finds himself in a promising position and is making a run in behind the defence. The pass is played into him but he is unable to control it.
The situation below is a similar example where Havertz is running from midfield and is able to sprint past the defence with ease. The pass is played into him and he lays it off to a teammate in an unorthodox fashion given the pass was just behind him for an easy assist.
So, how would Havertz feature in the starting line-up for Bayern?
To answer this, we will take a look at Bayern’s system. Hansi Flick’s team usually start off in either a 4-1-4-1 or a 4-2-3-1 depending on the available personnel and the opposition. They like to build up in several different ways either utilising an attacking midfielder or a winger – both positions that Havertz is capable of playing. One of the main ways Bayern build-up is by using a centre-back to play a direct ball into the attacking midfielder who has dropped deep to find more space. He then lays it off to the full-back who is able to progress the ball into the open space and either combine with the winger for a 2v1 or play the ball inside.
Another option is to play the ball from defence into the winger who moves from a very wide position into the half-space. Since the winger is positioned high up the pitch on the same line as the attacking midfielder, he will be able to find space in the half-space since the midfielder is not occupying the space.
These options work because the likes of Müller and Goretzka are good at controlling driven passes and holding the ball up. Müller is especially excellent at accurately laying the pass off first time, an attribute he has added to his game this season. Havertz has shown throughout the season that he is capable of executing in these situations and therefore, would fit seamlessly in Bayern’s build-up.
Bayern also like to utilise their centre-backs, most notably Jerome Boateng and David Alaba, to play vertical passes into the midfielders since they possess superb ball-playing abilities. The midfielders, usually Müller, Goretzka or even Gnabry, drop in between the lines and find space and look to progress the ball from there.
Havertz has proven that he can do the same and can be a bigger threat than both Müller and Goretzka given his underrated pace and dribbling ability. Both Bayern players are also lacking in the passing department compared to Havertz who is able to make difficult passes at a more consistent rate. This is especially crucial against teams who play in a deep block against Bayern since finding space becomes more difficult and time on the ball is very limited.
One aspect of Havertz’s game that is severely lacking is his defensive contributions. With only 0.7 tackles and interceptions per game, Havertz has a lower tally than any regular Bayern player. He is an adequate presser of the ball at best but rarely does he close players down aggressively. This is a very big downside as Bayern’s system is heavily reliant on winning the ball back very quickly and high up the pitch.
The example above shows how Bayern like to press, with every Bayern player virtually man to man with the opposition players. Nearly every Bayern player is in the opposition half giving the opposition no space to try and play out. As well as that, the passing lanes are cut off extremely well and thus forces the opposition to turn the ball over. If Havertz were to sign, he will have to learn to press more aggressively and efficiently under Flick or will risk not being a starter at Bayern.
Overall, I believe Kai Havertz would be a great signing for Bayern Munich and would be a player that would fit within Bayern’s system with some slight alterations. Within this article, I’ve mentioned his key strengths with regards to Bayern’s system, but it shouldn’t also be forgotten that Havertz is a very big goal threat, and so when you add that on top of everything else mentioned, you can see why Bayern are interested. Havertz would of course help in terms of depth, but if he was to join I would expect he has a guarantee of starting matches, and so Bayern’s other attacking midfielders’ game time would most definitely decrease. Flick will have to make tough selection dilemmas every week but these dilemmas are good ones.