Updated: Mar 15, 2021
With reports of an upcoming contract extension, Andreas Christensen’s revival under Thomas Tuchel is the focus of today’s Blue Monday post.
The rise of the Danish defender: Andreas Christensen has always been a highly rated defender since breaking out on loan in the 2016/17 season for Borussia Mönchengladbach.
He also did well to perform excellently in absence of the injured David Luiz under Antonio Conte’s Blues in early 2018, a solid run of form towards the back end of that season including a big performance against Liverpool in a 1-0 home victory.
Christensen proved to one of the better players in the squad, as he helped us to an FA Cup final victory over Man United, keeping a clean sheet in another 1-0 victory.
Sarri and the system switch: However, following Conte’s departure in May 2018 and a system switch under Mauricio Sarri, Christensen, despite holding the number 4 jersey, receded to the shadows of a bit part player.
Between 2017/18 and 2018/19, Christensen’s Premier League appearances dropped from a career high 27 to a lowly 8, a 70.3% decrease. This hurt his confidence, as he managed to go the whole of the 2017/18 season without a yellow card and only a singular error leading to goal, losing possession just 3.9 times per game.
However, in the subsequent season he had a yellow card in the 8 games he played, in which he was losing possession 4.5 times per game.
Despite Lampard’s arrival and a youth centered team, his confidence was still in tatters despite going back to playing 21 times in the Premier League. In 2019/20 he was especially errant, losing possession a massive 5.7 times a game and amassing 5 yellow cards. This led to Lampard losing faith in the Danish international, leaving him out of a massive 11 Premier League matchday squads this season, which did more to harm him than good.
Chelsea failed to keep a clean sheet with Christensen in the starting XI, conceding 10 goals in just 5 games.
Success in a 3 man defence: It’s almost blatantly obvious as to what his issue is. In the seasons he’s excelled in, he plays as a part of a ball playing back 3. From here he’s able to push up towards the halfway line and spend enough time on the ball to gather composure and pick a pass with great accuracy, averaging 93% passing accuracy from 46.7 passes per game in 2017/18. He also provides a longer option with 2.3 completed long balls per game for a 70% accuracy.
In a back 4 he is not offered the same positioning or luxury on the ball. This led him to repeatedly get caught out of position and outrun by pacey forwards, the likes of Theo Walcott, Sadio Mané and Callum Robinson all gave him trouble earlier this season. His biggest worry was his defensive output, but he has improved drastically from averaging a total of 3.6 duels won and 2.4 tackles and interceptions per 90’ in 2017/18, to 5.7 duels won and 3.2 tackles and interceptions per game in 2019/20.
Revival under Thomas Tuchel: Tuchel’s introduction and the reintroduction of the back 3 means he’s now gone from conceding 10 in 5 games, to just a singular fluke own goal against Sheffield in 5 Premier League games.
In the other fixtures, he’s had clean sheet performances against Spurs, Liverpool and most notably Man United where he did not lose possession, blocked 3 shots, made 4 tackles and interceptions and averaged a 100% pass accuracy from 77 passes.
Interestingly, Chelsea have conceded in the only Premier League game he hasn’t played in under Tuchel.
Christensen is the most naturally suited player to the back 3 at the club, and Tuchel’s change of shape to that formation has allowed us to see his true ability once again, with improvement in defensive awareness and positioning. With the average age of the preferred centre back trio of César Azpilicueta, Thiago Silva and Antonio Rüdiger having an average age of 31.7 years, a rapidly improving 24-year-old Andreas Christensen is exactly what the defense will need going forward, should we decide to stick with our very solid back 3.
On a closing note, the biggest show of his improvement is these two frames, on the right is from the Chelsea v Liverpool game in September 2020, and on the right is from last week Thursday. He’s only going to get better, as he provides a young spine for Tuchel and Chelsea to build around.