KAI HAVERTZ has assured anxious Arsenal fans that he can handle his responsibilities in Mikel Arteta’s midfield.
The German international has hit the ground running following his surprise £65million summer switch from Chelsea.
But many supporters are still questioning whether he has the physical power to replace Granit Xhaka in the heat of the midfield battle.
Havertz, 24, was used primarily as an attacking player either out wide or as a supporting striker during his four years at Chelsea, famously scoring the winning goal against Manchester City in the 2021 Champions League final.
But he actually made his name as a midfield player at Bayer Leverkusen, where he was regularly compared to German legends Michael Ballack and Toni Kroos.
And now he is turning back time as he relishes his extra involvement in an Arsenal shirt.
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He says: “I am really comfortable in this position. I am more on the ball and more integrated in the game.
“I am still adapting and I think I have a lot of room to improve but so far it’s working quite well.”
Havertz also took a subtle swipe at former employers Chelsea as he believes he is more suited to Arsenal's style.
He added: “Obviously it’s a completely different style to how I played at Chelsea, but I think it’s a style that suits me very well.
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“Of course it is going to take some time for me to get used to playing in midfield again, but I have only been here for two and a half weeks and I’m giving everything to try to perform at a high level.
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“Everyone has to earn their place in the team and you do that by giving everything in every training session and every game.
“When you play for a big club like Arsenal, there is always going to be competition for places. I am going to give 100 per cent to be selected and I’m really enjoying it.
“The team is amazing and it definitely feels like home already. They have made it easy for me to integrate into the team and it’s fun to be with them.
“They are all so young and hungry and this is exactly what I wanted. I am very happy to be here.”
Arteta has been baffled by some of the criticism of Havertz’s early contribution during the club’s pre-match tour of the USA and launched a passionate defence of his recent acquisition.
He said: “If I put Xhaka and Havertz together, who is the more physical?
“Havertz is one metre 91, he can run in behind, run forward, tackle and defend. For sure he will fit in with the qualities we have and the good thing is that we have plenty of options in midfield.
”We have the capacity to be very, very physical when we want to be, don’t worry about that.”
Havertz rewarded his manager’s faith on Wednesday night with his contribution to Arsenal’s feisty 5-3 win against Barcelona.
He also scored his second goal of the pre-season campaign and insists that he will not be completely abandoning his attacking threat in his more withdrawn role.
He says: “Scoring goals is part of my game and it’s important for my position to use my height to get in at the back post. Hopefully that works more times in the league.
“It’s been a long and positive couple of weeks for us. Obviously we didn’t win the game against Manchester United but beating Barcelona gives us another boost and now we are heading home to prepare for the start of the season.”
Wednesday night’s victory was not without incident as Leandro Trossard scored twice and Havertz was also joined on the scoresheet by Bukayo Saka and Fabio Vieira.
But it was the brutal nature of some of Barcelona’s challenges which really caught the eye, with Arteta admitting: “It was really competitive from the first tackle but in the end it got a bit too much for a friendly match.
“They are elite players who all want to win and playing in front of 70,000 people creates an atmosphere.
“At the end of the day, football belongs to the players and as soon as the first foul is committed they’ll rebel against the coaches and do what they want and that’s when it gets intense.”
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But Barcelona coach Xavi countered: “The intensity Arsenal put in was not normal in a friendly. I said to Mikel at the end that they played like it was a Champions League final.
“I understand that everyone wants to win but you don’t expect to have this many injuries and yellow cards in a game like this.”
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