Andreas Christensen has spent the last two seasons on loan at Borussia Mönchengladbach, collecting 82 appearances for the Bundesliga outfit, including 9 starts in Champions League matches against the likes of Manchester City and Juventus.
These invaluable experiences, having faced the likes of Robert Lewandowski, Thomas Muller, and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang on a regular basis, have put Christensen into great position to make that seemingly impossible jump to become part of the Chelsea first-team. He has perhaps the best chance to do so since Thibaut Courtois successfully made the same transition three years ago.
"I have come back to Chelsea a better player than the one that left two years ago. I played about 80 games in two seasons and I have a lot more experience. I have a bit more toughness, more mental than physical."
"The physical side of things is something I still have to build on, but mentally it has given me a lot. I’m more confident, I feel ready for bigger things. I was up against a lot of top strikers, big teams. I remember when I played against Bayern for the first time, I was nervous beforehand because it is easy to look like a clown playing against these guys."
"Borussia played one against one at the back and I was directly up against Lewandowski first and then Muller later on, but we won the game 3-1. Everything went well and this is the kind of thing that gives me more self-belief at the top level."
After letting go several highly regarded young players this summer, such as Nathan Aké, Nathaniel Chalobah and Bertrand Traoré, Chelsea’s player development methods, including use of the loan system, have come under pressure from critics and fans alike. But while the Academy’s main goal might be to develop good players and sell them on so they can have a solid career elsewhere, there is undoubtedly an equally important goal to find top-1% talent as well and develop them for the Chelsea first-team.
Having successfully navigated the system (hopefully), Christensen believes that the system is good.
"I’d like to think so [that the system helps youngsters]. Some people say that they just abandon you, that they don’t keep an eye on you, but that is definitely not true. There is [loan technical coach] Eddie Newton and [assistant] Paulo Ferreira doing a great job and they visited me quite a few times. They would also send me videos of my games, telling me where to improve. I always watched those videos, would take the advice on board and take it into the next game, even though sometimes I’d forget another thing! I got all the help I needed."
In his first start for Chelsea this pre-season, Christensen took the place of David Luiz as the centre-most defender in the three-man back line. Safe to say, there is plenty of room for improvement for the 21-year-old, but hopefully that’s something that Conte and a season with the Chelsea first-team can help with greatly.
"Luiz loves to play football and so do I. Even in the first drinks break against Bayern last night, he came over and told me a few things. He’s a great guy to learn from. He’s a good guy and wants the best for me as well."
"I haven’t spoken too much [with Conte] about [my role], it’s just about getting all the tactical work in. Right now I’m concentrating on just trying to learn what he wants from me in the position. It’s just great to be back."
"Some things have changed but most of the people are the same. It feels familiar and when I walked back into Cobham I felt at home straight away."
-Andreas Christensen; source: London Evening Standard
And may it feel like home for a really long time to come as well.