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Kai Havertz is the first casualty of Arsenal’s higher standards.  

Kai Havertz is the first casualty of Arsenal’s higher standards.  

After just three Premier League games at the Emirates, the German is already proving to be polarizing among the supporters.

Kai Havertz – Kai Havertz is the first casualty of Arsenal’s higher standards.

Thierry Henry was once referred to by some Arsenal fans as “the French Perry Groves” at a different time in the club’s history. The club’s greatest ever player is infamous for taking almost two months to score his first goal in the English game, and during those early weeks, the footballing world lacked patience.

In the beginning of his Arsenal career, Dennis Bergkamp also received harsh criticism. He struggled against Hartlepool United in the League Cup and was called “Hartle-Fool” by a tabloid newspaper because he failed to score in his first seven games for the team. “Bergy” was referred to as a “waste of money” in another headline.

There are lessons to be learned from the past, so Kai Havertz, who has already sparked a heated debate after just three league games, may find solace in the past as he continues to get used to life in north London. It could be argued that a look back at the club’s earlier days would be beneficial for some of the fans.

These are unanticipatedly — and, many would argue, unfairly — difficult times for Havertz. He has only been an Arsenal player for a short while, but already he appears to be the subject of the most heated debate among the club’s supporters and in the media in general.

Havertz was the talk of north London even before Saturday’s game against Fulham got underway. Before the game, this author overheard a group of Arsenal supporters arguing about the German in a crowded tube toward Holloway Road. While two of them felt that he had performed admirably against Crystal Palace, the other two felt that he ought to be dismissed right away.

In today’s football, it can be difficult to find the middle ground, and this is particularly true on social media. Havertz’s public pages were inundated with predictably scathing comments following his underwhelming performance against Fulham.

One of them said, “Leave Arsenal.”.

Another said, “Lazy player.”.

A third called out, “Havertz out.”.

Of course, this unpleasantness is nothing new, but it’s amazing to see how quickly Havertz gained notoriety after leaving Chelsea. A total of 236 Premier League minutes have been played by the 24-year-old while wearing an Arsenal jersey to date.

It is obvious that there is more to it than just performances. Yes, Havertz struggled against Fulham on Saturday, but he also showed promise during the preseason, against Palace, and in the Community Shield victory over Manchester City.

At this early stage of the season, it appears that Arsenal’s shifting demands are reflected in the early response to Havertz. For Mikel Arteta and his team, the start of the new season has brought new pressure, and the club’s supporters are now anticipating a serious challenge for the league title. The title charge from the previous year was a welcome surprise. It’s now necessary.

Reduced patience is a natural byproduct of raised expectations, and Havertz seems to be the first to experience this change in mentality, seemingly through no fault of his own (aside, perhaps, from his lackluster performance against Fulham). One can only speculate, but it seems unlikely, that the reaction to his performance against Fulham would have been quite as strong a year ago.

There are other variables at work. The third most expensive player in Arsenal history, behind Nicolas Pepe and Declan Rice, was Havertz, who cost £65 million. The fact that Havertz is excluding Emile Smith Rowe, the academy graduate and homegrown hero, from the team, as well as the payment of that fee, add pressure of their own.

Havertz coming from Chelsea hasn’t helped his situation either. Petr Cech, David Luiz, Willian, and Jorginho have all been acquired by Arsenal from Stamford Bridge since 2015; William Gallas had previously followed a similar path. Since his January arrival, Jorginho has made a positive contribution, but the other three have generally fallen short of expectations. Willian in particular performed dreadfully.

Havertz almost certainly found himself on the back foot, with some sections of the fanbase, as a result. Chelsea supporters sneer that Arsenal keep signing “Chelsea rejects,” and as a result, Havertz has probably found himself on the defensive. He needs to put in just a little bit more effort as a former Chelsea player if he wants the support of the supporters of his new team.

It’s possible that Havertz’s movement pattern is also contributing. He doesn’t blow up around the pitch like, say, Gabriel Jesus or Gabriel Martinelli. It might appear that he is exerting less effort because of his tall frame, which is less sprightly. However, appearances can be deceptive: Havertz is currently covering 11.9km per 90 minutes while wearing an Arsenal jersey, compared to 10.8km for Chelsea last season.

Whether you think it’s fair or unfair, all of these things are working against Havertz right now as he adjusts to a new position on his new team. Even though he has faced a different left-back in each of his three league games so far this season, it hasn’t made his task any simpler. Life will undoubtedly be simpler once Jesus and Oleksandr Zinchenko are back in the starting lineup.

Both Arsenal and Arteta are confident that Havertz will develop into a valuable member of the team over the next five years. Their sizeable investment in him is evidence of that. The fan base, however, lacks patience, and it says a lot about the shifting atmosphere at Arsenal that there is already pressure on the German to make progress, beginning with Sunday’s game against Manchester United.

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