Andreas Christensen: The harbinger of the end of the Chelsea tradition?
Roman Abramovich bought Chelsea in 2003 and with his millions of dollars, he metamorphosised the club. Immediately after taking the ownership, he brought in many talented players to drive his club towards an epoch of success.
Chelsea were an above-average team and had won a few cups before Roman took over. However, the Russian had more ambitious plans and did not dither to either spend millions or sack managers to get the desired results. All the criticism he faced for his oppressive ideologies seemed futile, juxtaposed to the success the club has enjoyed under him.
In addition to the revolution he brought to the senior side, the Russian also aimed to ameliorate the club's youth academy. Blessed by Roman's loaded pockets, the academy flourished.
The Chelsea U-18 side won back to back UEFA leagues in 2015 and 2016, the Premier League in 2017, and have won the FA Cup six times in the last eight years.
What makes this reformation a bit unsettling, is the fact that no player from the academy has been able to make a regular place for himself in the senior squad and to be fair, most of them have not even had enough minutes on the field.
A question that follows these set of circumstances is:
What is the point of investing so much money and time into the youth system when you don't give enough opportunities to the players to thrive?
Unable to get enough game time, most of the players from the academy leave on loan before being sold to a lower division club in the next couple of seasons. This has become more of a custom at Stamford bridge and has welcomed a huge amount of reproval from pundits as well as fans.
Many youth players like Lucas Piazon, Joshua McEachran, and many others who exhibited symptoms of becoming key players in the future, failed to establish themselves at the club and moved elsewhere.
McEachran started playing for the senior side in the 2010-11 season and was also named the 'Youth Player of the Year' after bagging 17 appearances for the first team. He remained at the club until January 2012 before spending the next three years on loan.
Frustrated by zero involvement in the Chelsea squad, he made a permanent move to championship side Brentford in 2015. Apparently, the youth player of the year award has little significance at Chelsea.
Another recipient of the award in 2012, Lucas Piazon, who is still a Blue, has spent his last five seasons on loan and is set for another loan spell at Fulham. Nathan Ake, Lewis Baker, and Loftus Cheek were the academy graduates who received the award after Piazon. Care to venture a guess as to where they are now?
The growing predicament at Chelsea seemed to amend under Conte, who provided opportunities to a few young players, but with Chelsea not involved in Europe, the chances were limited.
Antonio Conte used Chalobah as a substitute in many games and fielded the FA cup lineup with as many young players as he could. Dutch defender Ake was trusted by the manager to start against Spurs in the FA Cup semi-finals.
However, both Chalobah and Ake were sold in the summer of 2017, while other youngsters like Ola Aina and Loftus Cheek were sent out on loan. Once again, it appeared as if the Bridge was not a humble home for young players.
Amidst all the mockery, criticism and questions, the Blues took a small step towards redemption by retaining one of the academy products.
The club added the 21-year-old Danish defender Andreas Christensen to their squad, who had been magnificent in his last two seasons on loan at Borussia Monchengladbach. Christensen arrived at the West London club in 2012, but, upon graduation from the academy, he too was sent on loan.
Unlike the many others, the Dane was fortunate enough to awe-inspire the Chelsea management, who otherwise are slightly callous towards their own players. At the end of his first season at the German club, Christensen received the club's player of the year award.
Consequently, Borussia Monchengladbach made many attempts to sign the defender permanently, but Chelsea repudiated. In 2016, Christensen returned to the German side for the second time on loan and continued to improve. Chelsea recalled him at the end of his spell, earlier this year.
Since his return to his parent club, Christensen has befitted from the suspension of Gary Cahill and David Luiz and has clocked a good number of minutes on the field. His first start of the season was against Spurs at Wembley, where he made life tough for Spurs' brutal attacking force.
The defender looked calm every time Spurs pressurized, and denied Harry Kane a chance to celebrate on many occasions. He then put in a solid performance away at Stoke and against a red-hot Manchester City, if not for his calm and composed performance against City, the game would have repercussed as an assassination for Chelsea.
Christensen has also featured in both the UEFA Champions League fixtures, and it looks like Conte trusts the young lad.
Andreas Christensen's Premier League stats:
While Andreas Christensen has turned quite a few heads with his performances in England's top-flight competition, here's a quick look at his stats so far:
Clean sheets: 1
Duels won: 16
Aeriel battles: 5 won
Many pundits have already eulogized that Christensen's performances, his statistics and gameplay consolidate his cause of starting every game. Earlier this week, we learned that Christensen is training at three different positions and could feature in another role.
Fans anticipate the Dane to break the deadlock by becoming the first academy player since John Terry to do wonders for Chelsea Football Club. Having already proved that he is good enough to play amongst big players, Christensen would now be hoping to have an exuberant season and further enhance his skills.
So, will he put an end to the tradition of academy players not being utilized at Chelsea? Well, his gameplay has the propensity to do that wonder. Nevertheless, the likelihood of his career at Chelsea not being terminated like his former youth teammates, is something to ponder.