Mikel Arteta saluted
“adorable” Kai Havertz after the German midfielder sent Arsenal to the top of the Premier League with the late goal that clinched a 1-0 win at Brentford on Nov 25.
Havertz was a Champions League final hero for Chelsea in 2021, but he has endured a torrid time since crossing London to join Arsenal in the close season.
The 24-year-old finally gave a glimpse of why Arteta splashed out £65 million (S$110 million) to sign him when he headed home in the closing minutes.
Bukayo Saka’s 89th-minute cross picked out Havertz’s run to the far post and he guided his header past Mark Flekken as Arteta jumped for joy on the touchline.
Havertz’s second goal for Arsenal was his first in his last 10 appearances, moving his team one point clear of Manchester City, who were held to a 1-1 draw by Liverpool earlier in the day.
“That is the beautiful thing about life. When you have challenges and you have to overcome them, it makes these moments much better,” Arteta said.
“That is the reason the people reacted to him like that today. It is because he is adorable, a joy to work with.
“He fully deserves more than anybody to get that win.”
Havertz, meanwhile, said he had to bury his ego and is reaping the rewards of his hard work.
“It feels amazing. I’ve been working hard for this moment and today it paid off, so I’m happy to help the team,” he told TNT Sport.
“It was a brilliant pass from Bukayo. We work on this routine in training quite a lot.
“I know Bukayo and Martin (Odegaard) love to play that ball, so it was a good goal.
“Football is always hard work. Nothing comes easy. You have to work and believe.
“The last couple of months have been tough for me but I try to put my ego aside because the team is the most important thing.”
Arsenal’s third successive win in all competitions proved they have erased the bitter taste of their controversial defeat by Newcastle United earlier in November.
Arteta’s men had already won at the Brentford Community Stadium in the League Cup in September and they left it late before making it another successful trip to west London.
“I love winning and we are top of the table. This is where we have to want to be,” Arteta said.
“When you have an opportunity to take a bite out of everybody you have to do it.
“I was really curious how the team was going to do. Winter has started, it was very cold and it is difficult coming to Brentford. I loved the way the team competed.”
With on-loan Arsenal keeper David Raya not eligible to play against his parent club, Aaron Ramsdale made his first league start since Sept 3.
Ramsdale’s father recently criticised Arteta’s handling of the Arsenal goalkeeping controversy, with the England international surprisingly losing his place to Raya despite recording the second most Premier League clean sheets last season.
But Arteta’s faith in Raya received a boost when Ramsdale, his confidence clearly affected by his spell on the bench, almost gifted Brentford the lead with a horrendous mistake early in the first half.
Trying to play out from the six-yard box after Gabriel’s back-pass, Ramsdale panicked under pressure from Yoane Wissa.
Ramsdale missed his kick and the ball rolled to Bryan Mbeumo, whose shot was cleared off the line by Declan Rice before Wissa stabbed the rebound wide.
Arteta sprang to Ramsdale’s defence and said: “He has big courage, big personality and that’s what we need.
“I’m so happy with the team. The way they performed with the clean sheet. We move on.”