Andreas Christensen has had a topsy-turvy campaign to say the least. In fact, the same can be said about his entire career at Chelsea. The 24-year-old Dane has made 92 appearances for the club over the years, but has hardly shown any significant improvement considering how highly he was rated, even after his loan spell with Borussia Moenchengladbach in Germany. He broke into the first team under Antonio Conte, owing to the Italian manager’s feud with David Luiz, making an impressive 40 appearances. However, new manager Maurizio Sarri preferred to give David Luiz another chance to prove his worth, and Luiz did. Rudiger partnered the Brazilian, and this restricted Christensen to just 29 appearances, with a majority of them coming in the Europa League, and just eight Premier League appearances. The current campaign, under Frank Lampard, has once again not been very fruitful for the Danish international, making just 20 appearances.
Every single Chelsea fan anticipated Christensen to finally fulfil his potential this season with the guarantee of consistent playing time, owing to the departure of Luiz to Arsenal on deadline day. Rudiger’s nagging injury also aided his claim, as Christensen started the first three Premier League games, along with the UEFA Super Cup tie with Liverpool. However, after conceding nine goals in those four games, Lampard decided to introduce the young Fikayo Tomori, who he’d worked with in the previous season with Derby County, at the expense of Christensen. He was reintroduced in the side once again with Frank Lampard deciding to implement the three-at-the-back system for a brief period.
Christensen’s role in the side diminished even further when Rudiger was declared match fit after a long spell on the side-lines. He managed just three appearances in the following 19 games in all competitions, often left on the bench, or in rare cases, excluded from the match day squad altogether. But, despite him being left out, our defensive problems did not seem to get fixed. After a good showing against Nottingham Forest in the FA Cup on the 5th of January, Christensen was awarded with a start at home against Burnley six days later. Often criticised for being too ‘soft’, he showcased the warrior he is, nailed a starting spot for the next seven games, and was our best defender in those games. Thus it was a huge surprise for everyone when he was dropped for our FA Cup tie at home to Liverpool. Following a brilliant victory against the league leaders, he was once again left on the bench against Merseyside opposition Everton, where Chelsea demolished them 4-0. Christensen was having a good run of form, but he was dropped for our last two games prior to the global lockdown. And if the eleven players which started those two games can recreate their performances on a consistent basis, it might be hard for anyone to break into the starting line up again.
Christensen is a calm and composed defender, and isn’t rash or irrational unlike some. However, he leads in tackles per game among our other options, with 2.1. He also gives the second least fouls away, behind youngster Tomori. Christensen ranks second in clearances made, along with aerial duels won, hence busting the myth that he is too ‘soft’. He is undoubtedly the best defender currently at our club on the ball, as he leads the way in passing accuracy (an impressive 92.7%), while also being our only centre back yet to be dispossessed while on the ball. He also has the least bad control per game. Despite attempting the least long balls, he holds an impressive 89.5% completion, indicating his wise decision making capability of when to play the long ball and when to make the short pass to unlock space. However, he is our worst defender as per Whoscored, with a rating of 6.71 (Zouma: 6.90, Tomori: 6.88 and Rudiger: 6.84).
At an age of 24 where it is of utmost importance that one gets regular playing time, it will be interesting to see if Christensen reconsiders his future should he be denied an increase in playing time. Especially with Chelsea tipped to sign another centre back when the transfer window opens, Christensen might be on the edge. He is a warrior, no doubt, but isn’t the strongest individual, which is a prerequisite for a defender in the Premier League. His technical qualities are impressive, and a move to a more technical league such as the La Liga or the Bundesliga (where he spent two years on loan) could be more suitable.
My personal opinion would be to keep him. He is still nowhere near his prime, and some consistent game time could bring the best out of him. For me, he should be our first choice centre back, and was excellent prior to being dropped in our final two games. A left footed centre back, or one who possess leadership qualities and is comfortable in the LCB position, would be his ideal partner, and the likes of Rudiger need to be moved on. Nathan Ake or Gabriel Magalhaes are possible options; however, Koulibaly is the dream (regardless of it being unlikely). In conclusion, keeping in mind that Christensen has not had a spectacular season by any means, we need to remain patient and not follow our past trend of selling the likes of Kevin De Bruyne, Mohammed Salah and Romelu Lukaku too early in their careers and ruing our mistakes. Because as John Greenleaf Whittier once said: “For of all sad words of tongue or pen, the saddest are these: ‘it might have been’!”
Edited by: Dan