After watching Kai Havertz net four goals in his last five appearances for the Blues, boss Thomas Tuchel has paid tribute to his compatriot’s ability to recover form after a difficult period.
Out of a dozen Chelsea fixtures between mid-December and the end of January, the 22-year-old started just twice and featured in only a further two due to injury and selection decisions.
However, he has since ‘turned things around for himself’ according to Tuchel, and played every minute of our past seven games barring the FA Cup win at Luton Town, when he was not in the squad.
That recent form, including a brace at Burnley last weekend, the crucial opener in our Champions League last-16 tie against Lille and the FIFA Club World Cup final winner, has helped establish the German as the focal point of our attack.
While Tuchel has claimed no player is undroppable ahead of our latest Premier League assignment away at Norwich City on Thursday evening, he does concede that Havertz is doing all that is asked of him to keep his place in the team right now.
‘He stepped up in his mentality and his game,’ said the boss. ‘He has a huge influence physically, from his quality in our game and that’s why he’s very important. He’s in a good shape and he turned things around again for himself.
‘He was very strong in the beginning of the season and then he had a little spell some weeks ago where we did not feel him so involved like we feel him now. He fought his way out so full credit to him. It’s absolutely the right mentality and he shows how important he can be.’
Tuchel refused to take the credit for the forward’s resurgence in recent weeks, instead paying tribute to Havertz for refocusing and taking on board fresh instructions, particularly around how to make the most of his impressive 6ft 3in frame.
‘The pride is on him because he stepped up,’ continued Tuchel. ‘The players take care of themselves when they are on the pitch and they need to in order to stay on the pitch. He absolutely did this.
‘He was a bit like down and he had struggles to fight for it and to know how to fight for it, but then he stepped up. We spoke but it’s more or less a daily thing and he changed again his attitude, used his physique, and day by day was more and more impressive. He’s been in a very good shape for a long time.
‘Nothing has changed in the relationship. We always trusted him, he’s still very young and now he shows his potential. In the moment, he plays because he deserves to play and because he gives so much to the team. He can play all three positions up front and also as a double striker but in the moment he digs in in this central position and he does well.’
Havertz’s strong form has left Romelu Lukaku among the substitutes in recent outings and Tuchel admitted that has left our Belgian frustrated, although no less committed or determined to win back his place as starting striker.
‘It’s not easy for him but he’s an important member of the team,’ added our head coach. ‘There are other players at certain times who are not happy because the biggest problem is that we can only start 11 players and a lot of players have a reason to think they can be regular starters for us.
‘There’s always a chance because Kai can also play more positions - he can play as a double striker, like we played in the second half against Burnley and against Luton in the second half, so there’s always a chance.
‘Romelu fights for it like everybody else and this is what we need. He is as positive as he can be. Of course he doesn’t like the situation but he handles it very professionally and I also try to do my best to be respectful and supportive like for everybody else.’