Why Andreas Christensen is a blessing in disguise for Chelsea
It has been 19 years since John Terry first donned his jersey for Chelsea. After serving the club for a little under two decades, he left Chelsea, leaving behind a legacy filled with numerous individual and team accolades. This left a massive hole in the dressing room, as well as on the pitch, as Chelsea lost a great defender and a leader who knew the club inside out.
After becoming the first academy graduate since Terry to start four league matches consecutively for Chelsea, Andreas Christensen appears to be his successor. While spending a very fruitful two-year loan period at Borussia Mönchengladbach, during which he played against some of the best players in Germany and Europe, he perfected his game as a centre back and won many accolades for his performances.
In his first season with the German side, he won the club's Player of the year award ahead of the club captain Granit Xhaka, who himself had an outstanding season. He continued his form and had an even better second season there.
At this point, many clubs already started to take notice, and were ready to pounce on the player, knowing very well, that it would be hard for Christensen to break into the Chelsea first team.
His father even stated that Christensen would only come back to Chelsea if he will be used as a starter and not as a bench fodder. Both, the club and player have continuously communicated with each other about his own progression as a player and the expectation from both sides once the loan deal ends.
Andreas Christensen finally chose to come back and stake his claim at the starting spot. He came on as a substitute in the first few matches, the only start coming in the 2-1 win versus Tottenham. David Luiz was still very much the first choice in Conte's plans.
However, Chelsea's derby match against Arsenal in the Premier League saw David Luiz getting suspended for 3 matches due to his reckless tackle on Sead Kolasinac. And with this, the window of opportunity opened up, for both, Christensen and Chelsea. Needless to say he grabbed the opportunity with both hands and paved the way to many solutions.
Transition into the next generation
With Gary Cahill and David Luiz on the wrong side of 30, and Azpilicueta fast approaching the number, Chelsea needed to find young replacements to slowly phase them into the squad. Rüdiger was bought as a direct replacement to Cahill and Christensen looks to be the direct replacement to David Luiz in Conte's system.
With a new stadium in the plans, Chelsea are planning to build a core of young players that will see them through the next decade and in Christensen, they have found themselves an exceptional player from within their own ranks to do so.
There was a moment in the UEFA Champions League encounter versus Roma, when the Chelsea back 3 of Azpilicueta, Luiz and Rüdiger embarrassed themselves by tracking the same player, leaving the rest of the defence open without any cover.
Admittedly this was the worst Chelsea performance of the season. But it is moments like these that separate a good defence from a great one.
Ever since Terry left, there hasn't been a stand out leader among the back three who would shout orders and organize the defence during the matches. With Christensen replacing Luiz at the heart of the defence, the backline seems to be much more organized and calm.
And this comes down to Christensen's communication, and composure, on and off the ball, even under pressure.
A quick look at Christensen's statistics shows that he made 12 interceptions and 37 clearances in the 10 Premier League matches he has played. Whereas, he has only made 3 tackles in all of those matches. This is a testament to his exceptional positioning, as he almost always never gets himself into a situation where he has to tackle.
Blueprint for the academy
There are very few things in football that makes a fan as happy as watching a homegrown player perform well for the senior team. And it's no secret that Chelsea fans have been waiting for a long time to experience it.
With Christensen slowly, but surely, becoming a mainstay, the youth players at Chelsea can only see him as an example and work harder to break into the first team.
"I was in the right place at the right time, everything just clicked and it was perfect for me", explains Christensen. "That's the most important thing for the players that go out on loan. They have to find what's working for them and the perfect environment for them to develop."
Many have criticised Chelsea's loan system and their failure to integrate academy players into the first team. If Christensen proves his worth and becomes a regular starter, both the board, and the management will be more confident in integrating youth into the first team on a regular basis.
With one more solid performance and a clean sheet against Swansea City, Christensen looks to have displaced David Luiz as the starter in the centre of the back 3. There are many people calling out for a crisis at Chelsea, but the truth remains, that Luiz is still a very integral part of the squad as he even took up the duty of mentoring Christensen.
The most important thing, is that Christensen is getting to train with some of the best defenders in world football right now, and if everything goes as planned, he will end up being a very integral part of the club for years to come.
With the number of solutions and tactical flexibility he brings to the squad, he is, indeed, a blessing in disguise for Chelsea.