Interview

10 Questions With... Kai Havertz

Just over a year since his arrival at Chelsea, Kai Havertz is the latest player to answer our 10 questions covering a wide range of subjects…

Havertz had a difficult introduction to life in England, as illness and injury hampered his efforts to settle at a new club in a new country after moving away from his homeland for the first time. However, he has continued to look more at home in west London in 2021, as shown by his form at the end of last season and in the early stages of the current campaign.

Of course, he ended 2020/21 on a high by rounding goalkeeper Ederson to score the goal that sealed our 1-0 win over Manchester City in the Champions League final, and earned praise from Thomas Tuchel by picking up where he left off after the summer, including another important goal, this time with a header at Anfield to earn a 1-1 draw with Liverpool.

Before heading off to meet up with his Germany team-mates for this week’s internationals, Havertz discussed both of those goals, his growing relationship with the Chelsea fans and why he is trying to watch his language in interviews…

After playing for so long behind closed doors and with reduced crowds, you have had the chance to experience the atmosphere with travelling fans on some big away trips now. How have you found the fans in England?

The atmosphere in the stadiums is incredible. You always dream of playing in these stadiums and at Stamford Bridge and for me, of course, it’s also very nice to play in front of the home fans because they are incredible and it’s just a lot of fun.

The evening games at Stamford Bridge are also very nice, under the lights, with the atmosphere from the fans. The Champions League is the biggest competition and to play in these sorts of games, of course it’s a very nice feeling for us and it makes me proud to play these kinds of games.

You even have your own song now about your goal in the Champions League final. How does it feel to hear the Chelsea fans singing your name like that?

It’s very nice to hear these things. It’s a nice feeling when you’re on the pitch and you hear these songs, it’s incredible and of course a big thank you to all of them who are supporting me on the pitch, off the pitch. Also for the support I got over the last year because it was really tough at times and it was very nice and really helped me.

Talking of your goal in Porto, for those of us watching, that moment between you rounding the goalkeeper and slotting into the open goal was very nervous and seemed to last forever. Was it the same for you?

Yeah, 100 per cent. These moments, they are always the worst, because you think if I miss this one then of course you are on YouTube, on Instagram and in every meme, so I was just thinking ‘please, I have to score now’. Then, of course, it happened and then these are the best moments in football.

Your post-match interview after that final also showed us how good your English has become, even if not everyone approved of the language you used! Are you having to be more careful with which words you use as you are learning English?

My English was okay before I came to England, I think now it is of course better after one year. Those kind of words I think everybody knows, so it’s very difficult to learn which ones are bad and when you are so emotional after the game, sometimes you say some things that aren’t what you mean like this, that in this moment I hope people just found funny.

I just heard these words on TV and from other people in Germany before I came here, everybody knows these words, so for me they were not bad words. It’s just sometimes when you are from outside and don’t know that and you watch an interview like this you don’t want to hear these words, but I hope people understood and just thought it was funny.

Even before the Champions League final, you had started to look a lot more comfortable in your new surroundings towards the end of the season. Was it just a case of becoming more relaxed and not overthinking things?

Yeah. Of course, you get used to it when you play some games, when you have some matches, when you are here in England for some months. It’s a different type of football, but I think you get used to it and it was the same for me. After six months it was easier for me and then I settled in very well. I feel very good on the pitch and you are more relaxed on the pitch to play. Then, of course, it was getting a little bit better and now I’m used to it and I’m feeling very good.

Playing by instinct was always one of my strengths in the past, to just play football on the pitch and not to think about things a lot. I think also, when you come here with a price tag on your head, everybody expects you to play very good, and if you don’t play very good they start talking. But after six months it was getting better.

Thomas Tuchel recently spoke about how he could see you had taken a big step right from the start of pre-season this year, and that he sees so much potential in you he will push you hard to reach it. Is it nice to hear those things from your manager?

I agree with him about pre-season. When you have success and you score a very important goal, of course it gives you confidence, but I think it’s not only about confidence. I just feel very good here now, I know the players, I know the staff, I know the games, the opponents a bit better and sometimes this also helps you a lot. But for me confidence is the most important thing in football and when you have this you are very strong and better. So it’s been a combination of confidence and feeling more at home.

He always expects a lot of good things from you when you play in the starting XI, also when you come on, so you always have to show yourself and also the coach what you can do, that you are ready to play. I like this because I am young, I have a lot to learn. I know that. I am still 22 and I have so many years ahead of me. Sometimes I also want to know when I do something not good. So it’s good for me to have a coach that helps me out in these situations and also who always wants to improve me. That’s very nice for me.

Your first goal of this season was also the first header you scored in the Premier League, from a corner against Liverpool. You scored a few headers in Germany, was that something you wanted to add to your game here?

Headers are not my favourite thing to do in football, but as an offensive player you also have to score some goals with the head. I did it a bit in the past in Germany and now this was the first time in England. It was nice to score with the head because also I think set-pieces are getting very important again. When you have these tough matches it’s important to score a set-piece, for example against Spurs as well, the first goal was a set-piece. So it’s nice to also score a goal with the head.

You scored that goal at the front post and you’ve also been defending corners in that position. Is that something you’ve been working on as a team in training?

We trained a lot of set-pieces so there was a plan to bring the ball on the first post. It was planned, but then the ball loops up and then into the back of the net, so sometimes also it is a bit of luck. I tried to score a goal or make an assist, just put it somewhere there, and sometimes you score so it’s nice.

Since I came here that was always my position on defending set-pieces because I’m very tall. Of course, defending set-pieces is also very important for us and when you are in that position it is just about clearing the ball and putting it away. I’m used to it now and I think it’s an important position.

You’ve played in a few different positions at Chelsea. Since Romelu Lukaku arrived do you feel you’re playing your more natural role?

We have a lot of offensive players and sometimes we also switch the system. Sometimes I play as a number 10, sometimes as a number nine. I like the position I’m playing in this system very much and I’m enjoying it. It’s my favourite position, somewhere up front, and it’s very nice also to play these positions with these good players here.

Romelu’s now maybe the point every defender is looking to. Sometimes two or three defenders are just on him, so it gives us a lot more space around him. He’s now had a few games here, so also it’s getting better when you are used to playing with him. Of course, he’s a brilliant striker, and I think in the last few matches he showed this very much.

Does the way you think about the game change depending on the role you are playing?

Yeah, of course, you have to adapt your game a little bit. When you are number 10 you can take the ball sometimes a little bit lower and maybe have the ball more often. When you are in the number nine position you have to always keep the line very low with the defending line and also, when you don’t touch the ball for five or 10 minutes, this one moment you have to be there and have to score. So of course it’s a different situation and you have to adapt to it.

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