Those looking to judge Kai Havertz so soon into his fledging Chelsea career should take a look at other examples of young players moving from overseas to England reckons Frank Lampard.
There are some very high-profile and very high-achieving Premier League stars who started at Chelsea and other clubs but did not establish themselves initially, and ended up going elsewhere before returning to the competition and proving without doubt they had had what it takes.Not only are those players good lessons in the need for a period of adaptation, on top of the usual challenges that come with moving leagues at a young age, Havertz is also having to overcome a Covid infection that hit him hard.His manager Lampard thinks the level of scrutiny on a player like the 21-year-old German following a big move can no longer be compared with his own playing days.‘My pressure was not really anywhere near theirs, particularly Kai because of the price tag and what came with that, the modern world of expectation and social media and everything that goes with it. It is ramped up completely since my era,’ he says.‘Moving country, missing pre-season. I say it a lot but Kai only had about five work days with us before he played and that is just not beneficial for a player in any league, let alone when you are coming to the fastest, most physical league in the world.
‘Then, just as Kai was really coming to terms with it, I thought he had some really good performances, he got Covid and he had Covid quite severely. I’ve read a few things now about how people can really suffer with this and he has definitely had a bit of a fallout from that physically. It is something we are trying to help him deal with.‘So with the expectations around him, you have to put context to the story. Kai’s talent is undoubted, I see it every day. Giving him the time to adapt to the Premier League and to our team is crucial. We have seen players come here in the past that didn’t really adapt and went elsewhere and then came back to the Premier League and lit it up to unbelievable levels.‘I am not trying to compare Kai to that directly but there are so many stories across the Premier League, not just at Chelsea. I have full belief in him and we need to give him that time, particularly because of Covid. That is an issue that is related beyond his illness.’
Lampard emphasises that for any player, it can’t be taken as a given that he will hit the ground running when moving to such a fast and furious league with games every three days.‘When Kai came I was excited to take on that challenge with him, of how this league is going to be different and let’s see how you can adapt because your talents are different too in a really positive way and can help us.‘Something as a coach I know I can rely on is personal experience when it mirrors up slightly and I know I had to do extra work myself [when joining Chelsea]. Kai is different from me but particularly with the knockback of Covid now, we need to give him time to do that extra work which we are doing with him now. It will make him better and stronger in the end and we need to remember he is a young player as well so even more reason to give him time.’
After today’s match against Man City, Chelsea are due to host an FA Cup game against Morecambe. Although it has been questioned whether that match will go ahead next weekend as scheduled, at the moment it remains on. Either way, there were still a couple of rare midweeks ahead without a fixture.‘It does give us real opportunity to go on the training ground and work with individuals and with the team,’ notes Lampard, ‘because if I had it my way and we had a four-week pre-season, the physical work on the pitch we would have done with new players, with the team, on our shape in game situations, would have got them to a really good place to start the season, and we missed it.‘Every individual within the squad missed it, and for the newer individuals coming to the club it is even more critical, so if we can get in two, three, four sessions over those two weeks that we maybe haven’t been able to get in, then it is going to be beneficial not just for Kai but for the whole squad.’