Ever since the arrival of Maurizio Sarri for the 2018/19 season, it has been clear that the Italian likes to have his XI and stick to it. In fact he has only used 24 different players in the season so far and many players have suffered from this in terms of minutes. Last season under Conte, Cahill and Zappacosta made a combined 3,000 minutes whilst this season they have played just over an hour between them. However no player’s growth has been hampered as much as Andreas Christensen.
Christensen signed for Chelsea in 2012 on a free transfer from Danish club Brondby after having attracted attention from many top clubs including Arsenal, Manchester City and Bayern Munich. The 15 year old at the time said he chose Chelsea as the Blues “played the kind of football he liked.” He then waited two years before making his debut in a league cup game against Shrewsbury Town, which Chelsea won 2-1. He made another appearance in the FA Cup fourth round tie against Bradford, and we all know how that turned out. Despite his limited minutes, current boss Mourinho was impressed and could clearly see what the Dane had to offer.
However, the next year Christensen joined the infamous Chelsea loan army and was shipped out to Borussia Monchengladbach on a two-year move. Unlike many of the loan army though, Christensen took the opportunity by the scruff of the neck and had his first team place locked down almost immediately. In his first season he made 31 Bundesliga appearances in a defensive unit that helped guide Monchengladbach to an impressive fourth place finish. Christensen himself put up some impressive numbers including 1.4 tackles, 2.7 interceptions and 4.2 clearances a game whilst also contributing in attack with three goals and an assist from centre-back. He carried on his form into the 16/17 season putting up similar defensive numbers and scoring a further 2 goals.
In his two years in Germany he made 62 appearances which will have undoubtedly been more than he would have made in London and came back a better player than when he left. A win-win for both clubs involved and Christensen himself.
He arrived back at Chelsea after Conte’s 3-back system had taken the league by storm and given Chelsea a sixth league title. Many thought he would struggle to displace any of the three centre backs that had locked down starting places as Cahill, Luiz and Azpilicueta all made more than 33 appearances on the way to the title. However, due to Conte’s falling out with David Luiz, Christensen managed 23 premier league starts, despite the arrival of the Roma centre-back Antonio Rudiger.
Christensen appeared to have finally broken into the first team scene at Chelsea and seemed to be living up to his potential. But then a managerial shake up at the Bridge changed that. Conte out and Sarri In. Throughout Sarri’s inaugural season results have fluctuated and fans opinions of the Italian have gone up and down but one thing has remained constant. Sarri refusing to play the Danish centre-back. It is currently April and Sarri has given Christensen four league games. Fans simply cannot understand why despite Rudiger’s poor marking and Luiz’s numerous defensive mistakes they still get selected over the young Dane. He has however played every minute of Chelsea’s Europa League campaign and made five more appearances in cup competitions but it is simply not enough.
He consistently showed throughout his time in Germany and under Antonio Conte that he is a reliable defender who has a good passing range and poses an aerial threat. The exclusions of Cahill and Drinkwater are understandable as the pair are ageing and offer nothing that players ahead of them don’t meanwhile Zappacosta’s lack of minutes is due to Azpilicueta’s consistency and fitness but Christensen simply deserves more opportunities in order to succeed.
Chelsea fans’ cries were answered when he played a full 90 minutes in Wednesdays 3-0 win over Brighton. His inclusion, alongside fellow youngsters Callum Hudson-Odoi and Ruben Loftus-Cheek, has given hope to many supporters that Sarri has changed his stubborn ways but there is still every chance that he will be left out of the starting eleven again against West Ham on Monday.
In conclusion, Chelsea could have the next great centre-back under their noses and a player they can rely on for the next decade, after all he only turns 23 next week. However if Sarri continues to refuse to give him minutes, who could blame him if he wanted to leave in the summer; he certainly wouldn’t be short of suitors.