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How 'donkey' Havertz went from Bournemouth sympathy pen to Arsenal's main man

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KAI HAVERTZ has a soft spot for donkeys but is affectionately viewed by Arsenal fans as a real thoroughbred.

Two goals in Tuesday night’s 5-0 thumping of Chelsea brings his total Prem tally to 11 this term.

Kai Havertz celebrates his first goal against former club Chelsea on Tuesday

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Kai Havertz celebrates his first goal against former club Chelsea on TuesdayCredit: Rex
Havertz sheepishly celebrated scoring his 'sympathy' penalty against Bournemouth

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Havertz sheepishly celebrated scoring his ‘sympathy’ penalty against BournemouthCredit: Reuters

The German also has five assists, with seven goals and four assists coming in his last ten league outings.

It is the sort of form that has thrust the Gunners into the heart of an epic three-pronged title race with Manchester City and Liverpool.

Should Havertz carry on like this and lead Mikel Arteta’s men to top-flight glory, he may be seen as the bargain buy of the season.

All from a player who was bought originally by boss Arteta to be a midfielder — and a player who has had to fight to convince the fans.

Questions were raised when Arteta forked out £65million for Havertz last summer. Chelsea could not say yes fast enough.

The 24-year-old may have scored one of the biggest goals in their history — the   2021  Champions League final winner against Manchester City  — but  was  considered underwhelming across his three-year stint.

In 139 appearances for the Blues, after signing from Bayer Leverkusen for £62m in September 2020, he scored just 32 goals.

Havertz is not your stereotypical footballer. A quiet soul who plays  piano and revealed last March he had opened a donkey sanctuary in Germany, having been gifted three by his parents when he turned 18.

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So, you can imagine his awkwardness as he strolled around the  Emirates pitch on Tuesday, having turned over his old club, while the home fans sung his name to the tune of Shakira’s “Waka Waka” hit.

His Arsenal team-mates like that tune too,  chanting the “£60million down the drain, Kai Havertz scores again” lines after a 3-0 victory at Brighton earlier this month in which he scored the second goal.

Mauricio Pochettino accuses Chelsea players of ‘giving up’ in gutless 5-0 loss to Arsenal saying ‘there is no excuse’

The adulation may not sit well with him but he deserves it now.

During his Chelsea days, Havertz was misused and misunderstood.

The likes of Frank Lampard, Thomas Tuchel and Graham Potter struggled to nail down a starting spot for him, flirting  between a wide striker, a No 9 and No 10.

Even with Germany, he has been shifted about, flung to left-back  last November.

Arsenal and Arteta shook things up further by plotting to use  Havertz as a free-roaming No 8,  trialling the system in pre-season.

But circumstances forced Arteta’s hand. Gabriel Jesus’ extended time on the sidelines with a  knee injury meant Havertz was thrust back into the centre-forward limelight.

Just the one goal in his opening 12 Prem appearances had fans muttering, wondering if Arteta had bitten off more than he could chew.

The Arsenal squad could feel this, which is why they sympathetically let Havertz take a penalty in a 4-0 win at Bournemouth in September.

Tactics Exposed: Why Kai Havertz is Arsenal’s most important player

By Dean Scoggins

KAI HAVERTZ endured a difficult start to life at the Emirates after his big-money move from Chelsea.

But has now well and truly found his feet.

The German, 24, has found his scoring boots in recent weeks, including his double against his old club.

But Havertz has been providing much more than goals in recent months.

In fact he has become Mikel Arteta’s most important player as Arsenal go for the title.

That’s after the Spanish boss made a genius tactical switch.

Click here to read all about it.

Or to watch the brilliant video in full on YouTube.

But it was not until February and March that things really clicked, scoring in four successive Prem games and leading the line in three of them. He’s not looked back since.

Arsenal are still prioritising a world-class No 9 in the summer, yet Arteta has been given an almighty headache by Havertz and his impressively varied skillset.

He was lovingly nicknamed  “donkey” at Chelsea but at Arsenal he now looks anything but — while at 6ft 4in, his aerial presence is immensely effective.

And during the heat of battle, you can always count on Havertz to keep his cool. He said last March: “From day one, I felt a special relationship with donkeys. It’s a very calm  animal.

“Maybe I relate to them because I’m calm too. They chill all day, don’t do much, just want to live their life. I have loved them always.”

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