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Can Kai Havertz be Nicolas Pepe 2.0?

This time last year, no one expected Arsenal to sign Nicolas Pepe. Can Kai Havertz now be the same dream target who lands in north London?

It was around a year ago that it became that Arsenal would never be able to sign Nicolas Pepe. As the Gunners’ need for a fast, skilful, direct, goalscoring winger became clear, with both Alex Iwobi and Henrikh Mkhitaryan struggling to provide the necessary offensive impact from the wide positions, many fans earmarked Pepe as the dream target.

But while Pepe was viewed as the ideal solution to the problem, there was an underlying acceptance that, in reality, he was never going to come to the Emirates. The club could never afford him. He would want Champions League football. Too many other teams would be vying for his services. We all know how that ended.

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Arsenal, in a shock to most, smashed their transfer record to sign Pepe. He became the hoped-for solution to the team’s wide problems. He has not quite lived up to those expectations this season, but the point still remains: he was a dream target and the club actually managed to sign him, despite the doomsday beliefs that such a move was never going to happen — I happily admit that I was a chief doomsayer.

So this year, might the club conduct another shocking signing that no one expects them to be able to complete? Well, if they were to, there is no individual who would be more surprising and stupendous than Bayer Leverkusen midfielder, Kai Havertz.

The best way to describe Havertz is a goalscoring Mesut Ozil on steroids. He is a month athletic, more productive, sharper, more direct, though slightly less creative version of his compatriot. And for a team in need of a modernised version of Ozil, he would be absolutely ideal.

Havertz’s numbers are outrageous. He has 10 goals and eight assists this season. Last year, at 19, he 20 goals and seven assists in 42 games. The year before that, at 18, he had four goals and nine assists across 35 appearances, of which nine were as a substitute. And at 17, he notched four goals and six assists in just 1,449 Bundesliga minutes. He will turn 21 this summer.

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And Arsenal have been named as a potential landing spot for the German. Former Bayer Leverkusen sporting director Wolfgang Holzhauser said:

“Kai would gain experience abroad that he probably would not have in Germany. And not all players of this age and with this talent who go to Munich have developed positively there. It is important that Havertz is looking for a well-run club that corresponds with excellent opportunities for play. It would make no sense, for example, to go to a club like Atletico Madrid. Kai wouldn’t fit in there. His style of play would make him ideal for Barcelona or Arsenal.”

Cost is a major issue. Havertz will likely get close to £100 million. That is extortionate in normal times. Given clubs’ financial restrictions due to the coronavirus and the dramatic loss in revenue as a result, that seems unlikely. There is also a whole host of teams chasing him, including Barcelona, Bayern Munich and Liverpool.

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Nevertheless, no one expected Arsenal to sign Nicolas Pepe and they did. The same can happen with Havertz, right? (Read: Almost certainly not).

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