Ray Parlour: Arsenal star deserves praise after ‘surprise’ selection


Highlights

  • Arsenal’s 3-1 win over Liverpool could be crucial in their pursuit of the Premier League title.
  • Kai Havertz impressed in his role as a false 9, offering a physical presence and creating chances for teammates.
  • Despite his promising performance, Arsenal still need to invest in a top striker like Erling Haaland in the summer transfer window.

Mikel Arteta dashes down the touchline like prime Jose Mourinho, Jorginho dances his way across the pitch, Martin Odegaard is taking snaps of the club’s official photographer and Declan Rice is beaming that oh-so-glorious smile.

Why? Well, we all know the answer to that. Arsenal didn’t win the title on Sunday, not be any strength of the imagination, but their 3-1 win over Liverpool could well be decisive come May.

Indeed, had the Gunners lost at the Emirates Stadium on Sunday then they could probably have kissed bye-bye to any chances of winning the Premier League.

A defeat to Jurgen Klopp’s side would have seen them slip eight points adrift of the current league leaders. Instead, they now sit two points behind. Doesn’t that sound a lot better?


Given the way Arsenal have performed at times this term it perhaps wasn’t such a surprise to see them walk away with three points. They have beaten both Manchester clubs at home this term, after all.

However, the performance of some players was certainly a welcome shock. Chiefly, those two individuals were former Chelsea players; Jorginho and Kai Havertz.

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Kai Havertz’s performance vs Liverpool

With Gabriel Jesus ruled out of action yet again with an injury Arteta had a decision to make. Would he go with Eddie Nketiah – a man who has failed to score a goal in his last 11 league games – or Havertz – a player under a constant microscope of criticism?

The resounding answer was the German, their £65m buy from Stamford Bridge last summer. The former Bayer Leverkusen man didn’t score during the encounter but this was perhaps his most well-rounded performance in Arsenal colours to date.


Kai-Havertz-Odegaard-Martinelli

Playing in a false 9 role, the 24-year-old was a constant nuisance for Virgil van Dijk and Ibrahima Konate. He contested a pretty staggering 24 duels – although only won six of them. Havertz also supplied two key passes for teammates and registered a fortuitous assist for Bukayo Saka’s opener.

Truth be told, the Germany international should have buried the chance himself after being sent through by Odegaard. He stuck his effort at Alisson but it bounced kindly to Saka who found the net.

Ray Parlour’s thoughts on Kai Havertz

Speaking exclusively to Football FanCast on behalf of NetBet Online Casino, Ray Parlour was keen to voice his thoughts on their summer signing, hailing his influence on the play against Liverpool after a winter of rumours suggesting Arsenal could sign a new striker to boost their offensive line.

“He was a handful for me. I thought he did well,” Parlour began. “I was a little bit surprised that he was given a go but that’s the glaring area where everyone knows Arsenal need to strengthen. It’s a little bit like when Man City had that false number 9 but they got away with it because they had so many great players.”


Havertz-Mac-Allister

Despite such a promising performance from Havertz, Parlour still admitted that they needed to go out and sign their own version of Erling Haaland once the summer window opens: “They [Man City] knew they had to fix that area which they did with Haaland. Arsenal know in the summer it’s going to be a vital area. Edu and Mikel Arteta will be looking now to say that’s the area we really need to spend all of our money. We’ve got players around them who can be very very dangerous.”

Until then, however, Arsenal’s number 29 remains a real weapon for Arteta in the attack, specifically when Jesus is out injured. Nketiah has never really been someone to link the play and that’s what the coaching staff want from their centre-forward.

Havertz certainly does link the play and crucially boasts a physical presence. After all, it was that strength that helped the £280k-per-week earner to send Konate for an early bath. Twice the two players tussled but it only ended up in a brace of yellow cards for Liverpool’s French defender.

Speaking about his best qualities, the Romford Pele continued: “He’s a big lad, people don’t realise he’s 6 foot 4. He’s a big guy who’s got to use that presence and he did that well yesterday. He got a couple of important fouls in the second half where he put his foot in and drew the foul. I’m pleased for him.

“He’s got a little bit of stick, you know ‘he’s a waste of money’, ‘what’s his position’, I don’t really know [what his best role is]. They bought him as a no.8 to fill Xhaka’s role but he can play all sorts of areas. I thought he did well and most Arsenal fans will say he put in a really good shift.”

Whether Havertz will be able to finally knuckle down and become the left-side no.8 the club really needs remains to be seen but his performance against the Reds over the weekend will have certainly bought him more time as he aims to put all of the criticism behind him.



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