Premier League - Revitalised Andreas Christensen jumps through his sliding door at Chelsea
Since coming back into the side under new manager Thomas Tuchel, Andreas Christensen has been Chelsea’s best player, it’s as simple as that. Pete Sharland looks at the welcome return to form for the Danish international who has found his feet once more at Stamford Bridge.
Chelsea's German head coach Thomas Tuchel (R) embraces Chelsea's Danish defender Andreas Christensen (L) at the end of the English Premier League football match between Liverpool and Chelsea at Anfield in Liverpool, north west England on March 4, 2021. (
If you’re a Chelsea fan you’ve probably seen this clip a lot over the last 12-15 hours. If you’re a fan of another team you might not have even paid attention to it when it happened during the game.
It was around five minutes before half-time of Chelsea’s 2-0 win over Everton on Monday evening when Richarlison managed to find a hole in the Blues’ defence and started to charge towards the goal. It wasn’t quite the same movement but instantly the mind was brought back to the Brazilian’s decisive goal in the recent victory in the Merseyside derby. There was no reason for Chelsea fans to be concerned however, as a familiar face quickly strode across and nicked the ball away before the danger seriously developed.
In the first half of the season that calm figure putting out fires was Thiago Silva, one of the most experienced central defenders in the world. But now, with the Brazilian veteran out injured, that figure has been Andreas Christensen.
Christensen, the son of a former professional goalkeeper, signed for Chelsea at the age of 16 and really rose to fame during a two-year loan spell with Bundesliga side Borussia Monchengladbach. There was much excitement for his return and he excelled in Antonio Conte’s system. It seemed as if Chelsea had a natural successor to former captain John Terry. Perhaps not in the vocal leadership style, someone who wears his heart on his chest, but as a ball-playing defender. Former Chelsea player and loan manager Eddie Newton said as much when speaking of that Gladbach spell.
: Andreas Christensen of Chelsea is challenged by Gylfi Sigurdsson of Everton during the Premier League match between Chelsea and Everton at Stamford Bridge on March 08, 2021 in London,
Image credit: Getty Images
“He’s an incredible footballer," he said. "He’s one that the club should be proud of and one that we could definitely have here for the next 10 years and be another John Terry.”
But the last couple of seasons have been tough for Christensen. He has had injury problems and has found himself out of favour under both Maurizio Sarri and Frank Lampard, neither of whom ever really seemed to settle on their preferred central defenders.
That has not been the case under Tuchel. Christensen came in for Silva when he got injured against Tottenham Hotspur and has been a fixture since. Chelsea remain unbeaten under Tuchel and have overcome Liverpool and Atletico Madrid, as well as Spurs along the way.
Christensen has been a large part of this. The stats speak for themselves, last night’s one was that he made more ball recoveries (seven) than anyone else in the first half. Against Liverpool he made nine clearances, the most by any Chelsea player in a Premier League game for nearly three years. He has ticked every defensive box so far since coming in.
But on Monday night something else changed: what Christensen was doing when the ball was at his feet. He has always been a talented distributor of the ball, but his lack of consistency in playing time clearly affected his confidence.
For the first time in what feels like an age, Christensen put on a show with his passing. He was threading the ball. Finding gaps and breaking his passes through the midfield lines to find the players in the final third. His ball over the top to Marcos Alonso to put the wing-back through was Jorginho-esque and that’s important for Tuchel. If he wants to pair N’Golo Kante with Mateo Kovacic for more bite he needs someone to play those defence-splitting passes and Christensen can do that. It becomes even more important if Kovacic gets rotated out in order for Mason Mount to play deeper.
Real Madrid target 'jewel' signing from Man City - Euro Papers
It’s remarkable to think how last year Silva was signed because there were concerns over the level of the defence, and that Chelsea were using him as a stop-gap before going all out for someone like Dayot Upamecano or Declan Rice the following summer. As it turns out the answers were there all along. Silva brought the best out of Zouma and now Tuchel, with Silva’s help you would imagine, is bringing the best out of Christensen.
He has gone up against some top-quality opposition in the past couple of months and has come through each test with flying colours, most notably his display against Sadio Mane. Christensen is one of those defenders who is far quicker than he first appears and, whilst he would never beat Mane in a straight-out sprint, he uses the pitch in an intelligent manner to make any race between him and faster players far more even.
Andreas Christensen of FC Chelsea and Luis Suarez of Atletico Madrid battle for the ball during the UEFA Champions League Round of 16 match between Atletico Madrid and Chelsea FC at National Arena on February 23, 2021 in Bucharest, Romania
Image credit: Getty Images
This is what Tuchel said after that win at Anfield.
“Andreas stepped in in the middle of the first half against Tottenham (when Silva got injured), which was a really tough thing to do, and from the first minute, he’s been absolutely impressive," he said.
“He’s brave, strong in individual challenges, brave and intelligent in the build-up, and plays with a lot of confidence. I am absolutely happy with his performances and how he’s stepped up. He’s been a big part of our performances.”
Of course the caveat here is, would Christensen have gotten his chance had Silva not got injured? Antonio Rudiger is a clear favourite of Tuchel's and the German boss has enjoyed having captain Cesar Azpilicueta in his back three for his experience as well. Perhaps he wouldn’t have, but football is full of sliding doors moments and Christensen deserves every bit of credit for taking his chance.
With Zouma coming back and reports of new deals for both Rudiger and Christensen it appears as if Chelsea might be set in defence, for the time being at least. Malang Sarr hasn’t lit up Porto the same way Christensen did at Gladbach and might benefit from another loan move but if Chelsea can agree a deal to bring Silva back they will have five options, which should be more than enough.
All of a sudden Chelsea’s central defenders are possibly the most set out of everywhere on the pitch and that will allow the club to look to other more pressing areas, such as goalkeeper and centre forward. Christensen will turn 25 next month, Zouma 27 in the autumn, whilst Rudiger is still just 28. It’s a relatively young unit and there might finally be some kind of consistency that Chelsea have been craving since they said goodbye to Branislav Ivanovic, Gary Cahill and Terry.