Alan Smith has hit out at the treatment of Kai Havertz by Arsenal supporters since his transfer to Emirates Stadium and backs the midfielder to be better than Granit Xhaka.

The Gunners signed Havertz from their London rivals Chelsea this June to start their summer spending under manager Mikel Arteta. He switched from the west to the north of the capital for £62.5m, plus £5m in add-ons. Arsenal also handed the 24-year-old a five-year contract.

Arteta sought Havertz’s signature as he strived to replace Xhaka ahead of the Swiss’ £21.5m move to Bayer Leverkusen. Arsenal let the 30-year-old leave Emirates Stadium after the best of his seven Premier League seasons. He scored seven goals and seven assists in 37 games.

Arsenal midfielder Granit Xhaka celebrates scoring against Wolverhampton Wanderers in Premier League as Alan Smith makes Kai Havertz comparison
Photo by Stuart MacFarlane/Arsenal FC via Getty Images

Why Pele Is Overrated.

Smith feels Havertz will be better than Xhaka was at Arsenal

Xhaka had never scored more than four times in a Premier League season before the last of his seven campaigns. He recorded four in 2018/19 and penned a personal-best seven assists in 2017/18. Arteta only saw Xhaka score one goal a season between 2019/20 and 2021/22.

What allowed Xhaka to reach new heights at Emirates Stadium in 2022/23 was the greater freedoms Arteta gave him. The Spaniard freed the Switzerland captain to push forward and support Gabriel Martinelli on the left-hand channel. Now, he wants Havertz to play the role.

Havertz has started in all four of Arsenal’s Premier League games so far this season. But he is yet to score or offer an assist during 313 minutes of action. Arteta let Havertz play the full 90 minutes in wins over Nottingham Forest and Crystal Palace in what was Xhaka’s position.

Arteta also started Havertz in the Xhaka role against Fulham and Manchester United. But he replaced the 38-cap German in the 56th minute against the Cottagers with Fabio Vieira, who stirred their 2-2 draw. Vieira also replaced Havertz in the 77th minute against the Red Devils.

Arsenal midfielder Kai Havertz in Premier League action vs Fulham
Photo by Stuart MacFarlane/Arsenal FC via Getty Images

Smith compares Havertz to Grealish’s start at Manchester City

Vieira will feel he now merits a start when Arsenal visit Everton this Sunday after he assisted Gabriel Jesus against Manchester United. But Smith is confident that Havertz will be a better player than Xhaka was last season given time to become familiar with Arteta’s Arsenal team.

“It does annoy me a bit the way people are willing to criticise him so quickly,” Smith told The Gooners Pod. “These are Arsenal supporters and you’d hope that they [show some] support in the early days when a new player comes in and he’s trying to find his feet.

“He’s trying to understand what the manager wants and I think that does take time. You see players go in at Man City and try and understand what Pep Guardiola wants and needs.

“It took Jack Grealish a season. I’m not saying it’ll take Havertz a season. But he’s just finding his feet in that squad, in that dressing room and in that first XI.

Arsenal goalkeeper Aaron Ramsdale and midfielder Kai Havertz celebrate Premier League at Crystal Palace
Photo by Mike Hewitt/Getty Images

“I think he’s a very good player technically. I think he can be a good player for us and I heard Arteta say he wants to be getting himself in the box on the end of things. A bit like Xhaka did last season.

“I think Havertz can be better than that as he’s got more of an attacking instinct and he is a good finisher when he gets in those positions.”

Grealish left Aston Villa for Manchester City in a £100m deal after he scored six and assisted 12 goals in 26 Premier League games during the 2020/21 campaign. But he then only scored and assisted three goals respectively in 26 outings during his first term playing for Guardiola.

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