It is never good to lose a player, be that to injury, suspension or any other reason, but sometimes these unfortunate events can turn into opportunities for others. Michy Batshuayi, for example, has a tremendous opportunity now to step up while Álvaro Morata is sidelined with a hamstring injury, just as young Andreas Christensen stepped up while David Luiz was suspended for three games following his red card against Arsenal.
Christensen, who’s spent the last two seasons out on loan at Borussia Mönchengladbach is the latest great hope of the Chelsea Academy and the youth and loan system in general. That’s certainly a fair burden to bear, though Christensen has made it clear over the past twelve months that he’s not only ready to stake his claim in the Chelsea first-team, he expects the club to give him the opportunities that so many other loanees never get. Backed up by those two excellent years in Germany, Christensen has talked the talk. Through the first two months of the season, it’s safe to say he’s also walked the walk.
"I’m happy for the matches I’ve played, and I think I’ve shown myself as well as I could."
"It certainly looks like that’s the position I’m fighting for [at the centre of Chelsea’s defence], but in training I am also working on the other two sides so if there is use for it then I won’t think twice about playing there."
Perhaps the most telling sign of Christensen’s importance to the five-man corps of center backs at Chelsea was when he came on as the defensive substitute against Atlético Madrid last week to anchor the defensive line (i.e. the David Luiz position) and pushed David Luiz himself into defensive midfield. That was just 1 of the 9 appearances Christensen has already made this season (5 of them starts), missing just one league game (against Leicester City) and the Community Shield.
Conte has spoken of his trust in Christensen several times since the summer, and like the defender himself, has backed up the talk with appropriate action. With another busy period awaiting the Blues after the October international break — 7 games in 21 days, just as in September — Christensen should continue getting plenty of minutes, even if the rest of the defenders remain healthy and not suspended.
"We’ve played seven games in 21 days so it has been tough. Conte said before this run of games that if someone thought they could play every game, they had a screw lose. He really emphasised that he was going to rotate, which he has done. But I think we’ve found our legs and know what we’re going to do."
-Andreas Christensen; source: Bold.dk via Metro
While nobody started all seven games, several started six of the seven, including Courtois, Azpilicueta, Alonso, Kanté and Fàbregas — Cesc was one of three players to actually appear in all seven games, alongside Hazard (who started only three times) and Bakayoko (who actually has the current longest active appearance streak going at nine games — six of those starts, including four straight). But Chelsea clearly ran out of steam against Manchester City in the final game of the stretch, which could be a concerning sign as we head into the winter months, especially with Morata’s injury looming over the attack and the midfield still a couple players short thanks to Drinkwater’s continuing absence and the never resolved backup situation behind Marcos Alonso.
Still, plenty of signs to be hopeful, including Christensen’s emergence (or confirmation of his abilities, depending on where you rated him before the season) as we head into October’s slate of matches.