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Havertz fires Gunners into top spot

German forward is starting to come good for Arsenal, as it piles pressure on title rivals

Updated: 2024-04-25 08:57
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Arsenal's German midfielder Kai Havertz celebrates after scoring the team's third goal during an English Premier League match against Chelsea at the Emirates Stadium in London on Tuesday. REUTERS

LONDON — Kai Havertz took a long time to win over the Arsenal fans after his summer move from Chelsea, but there will be few doubters left after a double against his old club on Tuesday helped fire the Gunners three points clear in the title race.

The 24-year-old German produced two clinical finishes after the break as Arsenal accelerated to a 5-0 victory that sent a powerful message to Liverpool and Manchester City.

Havertz took 10 appearances to mark his first Arsenal goal and, for those first few months in north London, the player who scored the winner for Chelsea in a Champions League final looked like a player struggling to find his identity.

But, those difficult times now look to be behind him and 12 goals in all competitions looks like a decent return, while his all-around play gives Arsenal's attack flexibility.

"He deserves it. He's been outstanding since he's come in. You don't realize how good he is until you play with him," Ben White, who also scored twice, said.

Manager Mikel Arteta showed loyalty to Havertz earlier in the season and is now being richly rewarded, with the former Bayer Leverkusen striker unleashing his full potential.

"His overall contribution in every phase of play was tremendous," Arteta said. "When you add the two goals he scored and some of the linkup play that he had in big moments, it was a great performance."

While Manchester City still has a fourth successive Premier League title in its own hands, the nature of Arsenal's demolition of Chelsea piled on the pressure.

Liverpool is three points behind Arsenal, while City is four points back, but with two games in hand, although Arsenal's huge goal difference advantage is effectively worth another point.

With Liverpool at Everton on Wednesday and City at Brighton and Hove Albion on Thursday, Arteta will be watching and hoping for any slip-ups as his side begins to prepare for Sunday's seismic north London derby at Tottenham Hotspur.

"We have made our people very proud, it is a big derby for us and I know what it means," said Arteta." We started the game really well, but didn't convert all our chances — we were a bit sloppy in certain areas of the pitch.

"We have to do our job. Now we have to wait and see (for Liverpool and Manchester City's results)," Arteta added. "We have a lot of games coming up. Let's enjoy tonight and let's go back to work."

While Arsenal will head into the final weeks on a high, Chelsea's recent revival appears to have run out of steam.

Arsenal's previous biggest league win over its London rival was 5-1 in 1930.

Chelsea manager Mauricio Pochettino, though, insisted he didn't feel let down by his players' overall effort, pointing to mitigating circumstances, such as Premier League joint top scorer Cole Palmer's absence, a young starting lineup and fatigue from what he called "an amazing performance" against Man City three days ago.

"I'm not going to blame the players," Pochettino said. "The circumstances are bigger than the performance of the players."

While it was without Palmer and had a reshuffled back four due to injuries, Chelsea's second-half capitulation is worrying.

It remains ninth, and its hopes of qualifying for Europe as a consolation for a mediocre season are receding.

"We were not aggressive, and we did not concentrate in situations where it is easy to find the solution. That is why we're so disappointed," Pochettino said.

"It is difficult to talk about objectives. If we compete like Saturday (in the FA Cup semifinal defeat by Man City), OK. But, if we compete like today, do I think we deserve to go into Europe? I think, in this way, no."


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