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Keep, Sell, Loan: Andreas Christensen's 2015-16 season in review

Taking a look at the good, the bad, and the ugly of each and every Chelsea player's season. Next up, Andreas Christensen, who's enjoyed a most excellent season on loan at Borussia Monchengladbach.

Alexander Scheuber/Getty Images

UEFA Champions League: 5 (450 minutes)
Bundesliga: 31 (2790 minutes)
DFB Pokal: 3 (270 minutes)

Goals: 3

With two starts and a substitute appearance to his name at Chelsea last season, Andreas Christensen, the highly promising Danish centre-back was sent out on loan to Bundesliga side Borussia Monchengladbach, who had also qualified for the UEFA Champions League by virtue of a 4th-placed finish in the previous season. After a horror start to his career in North Rhine-Westphalia, after a 4-0 loss to Borussia Dortmund on the opening day of the season, Christensen did not start another game until the resignation of Lucien Favre in mid-September.

Andre Schubert took over and restored Christensen to the side, the young Chelsea loanee quickly cementing his place the side and starting every single one of Gladbach's remaining matches alongside various partners in the center of two-man and three-man defences.

For most of the first half of the season, Christensen played as the right-sided center back next to either Alvaro Dominguez or West Ham United-bound Havard Nordveit in a 4-4-2 formation.  While their league form improved, they finished bottom of their Champions League group despite respectable performances against the highest quality opposition that included Juventus, Manchester City, and eventual Europa League-winners Sevilla. Christensen, still just a teenager at the time, was locking horns with the likes of Sergio "Kun" Aguero, Kevin Gameiro, and Alvaro Morata, just to name a few.  At just about each time of asking, Christensen turned in a quality performance (although he had a few torrid spells against Manchester City, as did his team as a whole).

While tall with a decent-sized frame, Christensen is by no means a physically dominant player nor a hard tackler in the mould of hulking defensive brutes of the past. In fact, he attempts only 1.6 tackles per game, winning 1.2. But he is a smart tackler: he was booked exactly one time this season, and averaged a foul committed about once in every three games. He plays to his strengths, which are his positioning and an ability well beyond his years to read the game (making 2.8 successful interceptions per game, the highest on the team).  Christensen only commits to a tackle when absolutely necessary — this is an aspect which has drawn praise from both his manager and the club's Sporting Director, Max Eberl — and he's able to force errors and turnovers with some excellent one-on-one defending.

Another aspect to be highlighted here is Andreas' aerial ability, which has vastly improved over the course of the season. So much so that during opposition goal-kicks or deep free-kicks, he often positioned himself as high as the half-way line to win headers in midfield, with midfielders like Granit Xhaka falling back to temporarily his spot at center-back.

Manager Andre Schubert, beginning with what ended up as an unexpected 3-1 victory against Bayern Munich in December, began to employ a 5-3-2/3-5-2 formation (varying with the opponent) more frequently, in which Christensen was deployed in the heart of the three-man defence alongside 18-year-old Nico Elvedi and Havard Nordveit. With three ball-playing defenders, Gladbach pressed high and employed a fairly fluid team shape. Christensen's excellent passing ability (accuracy of 87% including 3.2 successful long balls per game) was a key cog in Gladbach's preference to play the ball out of defence.  Christensen was also a threat from set-pieces, averaging an attempt on goal every other game and even scoring twice while hitting the post a few more times as well.

In the following video clip, you can view a compilation of Christensen's defensive actions from the 3-1 victory versus Bayern.

As any young defender, however, Christensen can be suspect to errors and lapses in concentration — for example, as seen in the video below, when a misplaced pass and subsequent failure to stick to his man (Kingsley Coman) could have easily cost his side a goal.

The lowest point of Andreas' season was probably his first game, in which the Gladbach defence was truly laid bare. He also somehow was beaten in the air once by David Silva to give Manchester City the lead, something I'm sure Christensen is not proud of.

Rating: :-D (not a D-minus)

Verdict: Things have definitely gone according to plan here and then some.  With Christensen halfway through his two-year loan, Chelsea's options are basically limited to honoring or breaking the agreement signed last summer with Gladbach.  But while Christensen could challenge for a place at Chelsea already, I think it's imperative that he fulfill the whole duration of his loan.  If his next season goes as well as this one did, he'll be ready to walk into the Chelsea first-team, a la Courtois after his multi-year loan at Atlético Madrid.  Christensen, who turned 20 last month, is on the cusp of big things, of potential superstardom (as much as defensive players can be superstars).  Watch this space!

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