Arsenal got their Champions League campaign off to a strong start on Wednesday night, as the Gunners marked their opening fixture in Group B with a dominating 4-0 win against PSV Eindhoven at the Emirates.
Before the game, it had been seven years since the north Londoners had last played in the tournament, with Mikel Arteta’s new wave of stars showcasing a performance that looked as though they’d never left.
While it was a special night for Arsenal, all attention must immediately be turned to Sunday, as the Gunners welcome their fiercest rivals Tottenham Hotspur to Islington for a highly-anticipated north London derby.
Ange Postecoglou’s side are level on points with Arteta’s squad in the Premier League table and have been in fine form since the start of the campaign, making Sunday’s contest one to watch.
Unlike previous meetings, the Reds will have to be at their very best to beat Spurs this time around and with the stakes being so high, Arteta could opt to make some changes to the side he fielded last time out in the league against Everton. One point of debate ahead of that game very much remains Kai Havertz.
How did Kai Havertz play against PSV?
At Arsenal’s 1-0 win at Goodison Park, summer signing Havertz was dropped from the starting XI for the first time this season to make way for Fabio Vieira.
The £280k-per-week German was reinstated into the lineup last night to face PSV, and capped off his return with a “superb” display, as praised by journalist Steve Kay after the full-time whistle.
Earning a match rating of 7.0, the Champions League winner thrived in midfield, registering a stellar 93% passing accuracy rate, as well as recording one key pass and one big chance created in the 90 minutes he played, via Sofascore. What was also eye-catching was that no player won more duels (9) throughout the entire game, and we know much Arteta likes duel winners.
The 24-year-old was praised as “intelligent” by his manager after the game, in what was an impressive performance by the versatile ace that first started in midfield and then in the dying stages saw him play as a lone striker.
Should Kai Havertz start against Spurs?
In a fixture as highly contested and full of quality as a north London derby, Arteta may opt to keep Havertz in the starting side in place of Vieira on this occasion.
The Portuguese playmaker earned his starting place against Everton, having secured two assists in his opening two appearances for the Gunners so far this campaign.
While his distribution and vision are finally coming to light after making the move to north London from Porto in 2022, the 23-year-old lacks the physicality to contend in the midfield against a duo as sturdy as Yves Bissouma and Pape Sarr.
The midfielder was previously criticised for his stature by journalist Connor Humm, who dubbed Vieira as being “too weak” in possession, an area of his game that won’t suffice in a match-up as colossal as the battle of north London.
For such reasons, it would be a wise move for Arteta to restore Havertz’s place in the Premier League squad against Spurs, who will certainly bring a challenge to the Gunners’ midfield as judged by their start to the season.
The 6 foot 4 German brings a physical and creative presence to Arsenal, in a way that can’t be replicated by Vieira, despite his recent streak of form in the final third.