Andreas Christensen has failed to see the regular game time he expected at Chelsea and seems to be out of favour with current boss Maurizio Sarri. A talented player with a lot of potential, but, with just three league appearances to his name this season, where is it going wrong for the Dane?
After signing for Chelsea as a 15-year-old, Christensen seemed to be one of the few players at the club who had benefited from going out on loan. The defender impressed immensely during his two seasons in the Bundesliga with Borussia Mönchengladbach. Between 2015 and 2017, Christensen racked up 62 league appearances for the German club while scoring five goals. He also featured in 14 European games, allowing him to obtain vital experience at the highest level.
The defender returned to parent club Chelsea in 2017 and spoke highly of his time in Germany.
“I have come back to Chelsea a better player than the one that left about two years ago. I played about 80 games in two seasons and I have a lot more experience. I have a bit more toughness, more mental than physical.”
With academy graduates featuring regularly for Chelsea being a rarity, fans were excited and hopeful that Christensen could buck the trend. It was uncommon that Chelsea loanees would return to the club with the amount of experience Christensen gained, particularly in European competitions, so expectations were high for the then 21-year-old.
In his first season back at the club, Christensen became a key component in Chelsea’s three-man-defence under Antonio Conte. Predominantly playing in the middle of the three, the Dane featured in 40 games in all competitions, 27 coming in the Premier League. Chelsea finished in a disappointing 5th place, but Christensen was one of the few positives to come out of the campaign and was rewarded with the club’s Young Player of the Year award.
Going into the current campaign under new manager Maurizio Sarri, Christensen was expected to continue as a starter for the club. Sarri unsurprisingly adopted a four-at-the-back formation, meaning only two centre-backs would start each match.
The Italian opted for a partnership of Antonio Rüdiger and David Luiz to start the season. With the pair regularly keeping clean sheets, it became difficult for Christensen to warrant a place in the team. In fact, the 22-year-old had to wait until December to play his first league game of the season, and then a further two months to feature in his second.
However, many fans are now calling for Sarri to give Christensen a run of games in the Premier League. Luiz has been the subject of criticism by supporters and seems to be the player most want to take Christensen’s place on the bench.
Luiz’s ball playing ability is vital to the way Chelsea play, and the Brazilian creates chances most games with his range of passing, but he is also prone to mistakes defensively. Christensen’s short-to-medium passing range is up there with the best; he frequently produces pass completion rates above 90% but lacks the same quality over distance.
Sarri seems to be willing to sacrifice defensive stability in order to have Luiz’s unrivalled passing abilities on the pitch, a decision with mixed responses from Blues’ fans. It is hard to provide an argument for Luiz being superior to Christensen defensively, so if the latter could improve his passing range to be somewhat similar to Luiz’s, then fans may get their wish.
The other defender in Christensen’s way of regular game time is Rüdiger. The German is less likely to be displaced than Luiz due to his defensive qualities and he is arguably the best centre-back at Chelsea. The Rüdiger and Luiz partnership seemed to be stumbled upon by Sarri but, due to the success at the start of the season, it has largely remained untouched. If Christensen had been given the nod in the opening stages of the season then it is unlikely he would be in the situation he is currently in.
The primary reason Christensen has had to take a backseat this season is due to Sarri’s reluctance to change the team. He is renowned for being a ‘stubborn’ manager and rarely tweaks anything on the pitch, whether it be the system of the personnel.
If Chelsea had been able to confirm top four status with a few games to go then Sarri would be more likely to give Christensen a run of games in the backend of the campaign. However, with the battle for top four seemingly going down to the wire, the chances of Sarri making drastic changes to his team, particularly defensively, are slim.
Despite the youngster admitting his frustration regarding his playing time, Christensen assured fans he is not going to take the easy route and leave the club. Speaking in November, he said:
“No, I don’t think so. Things are different from last season. I played a lot of games but this season it isn’t like that. It’s always difficult for a player but we’ll see what happens.”
Over the course of the season Christensen appears to have been unlucky with the way things have fallen into place for rival players. A combination of Sarri’s reluctance to change the team and Luiz’s passing threat has meant Christensen may have to wait a little longer to establish himself in the Chelsea starting lineup. If he can prove his worth to the team in pre-season then the future could still be bright for the young Dane.
Written by Liam Wilson.