Germany legend Lothar Matthaus has explained why Julian Nagelsmann’s decision to play Kai Havertz at left-back is a “slap in the face”, and urged the national team boss to play “one of the best German offensive players” in a more natural position.
Havertz has struggled for Arsenal this season since his £65m move from Chelsea, and his lack of game time under Mikel Arteta has led to him falling down the pecking order for Germany – he found himself out of the starting lineup for the three games before the clash against Turkey on Saturday.
In a bid to squeeze Havertz into the team, Nagelsmann opted to play the him at left-back, and although the 24-year-old conceded a late penalty, he also opened the scoring and in general put in a solid display.
After the game, Nagelsmann explained the outlandish selection and claimed Havertz could even make the role his own ahead of next summer’s European Championships.
“Kai said he wanted to do it, wanted to try it,” explained Nagelsmann afterwards.
“I don’t see this as a risk for him, but as a very, very big opportunity to play a key role at the Euros. For a first time in an unfamiliar position, he did extremely well and probably was our best player.”
Matthaus is less convinced, and urged Nagelsmann to give up on the experiment and play Havertz futher forward.
He wrote in his Sky Germany column: ‘Havertz brings a lot of quality, but he was not trained in this position, but in the offensive [areas] and mainly centrally.
‘I accept that the national coach wanted to try something out, but I hope it doesn’t happen again – even though Havertz was one of the better players against Turkey.
‘If we want to have his qualities in the team, we have to find a place where he can show the extra class that he partly embodied during the last World Cup.
‘It can’t be a permanent solution if we suddenly let one of the best German offensive players of recent years play full-back.
‘This is also a slap in the face to those who have played there recently, even if there were problems on the left side of the defence recently.’
He added: ‘After Havertz’s goal, it initially looked as if Nagelsmann’s plan might work, but as a coach you have to think long-term, not just from one game to the next.
‘The world-class quality that Nagelsmann sees in Havertz has so far only shown on the offensive.
‘At Bayern, Nagelsmann didn’t necessarily rely on a nine, so he could use Havertz as a false nine, Leroy Sane on the right, Jamal Musiala in the middle and Florian Wirtz on the half-left or left side. Then you would have gathered all the world-class players that Nagelsmann and I see in one team.’