When we look back on this most unfortunate season a few years from now, after all the pain and frustration and disappointment has faded away, the one thing we just might recall fondly is the emergence of Andreas Christensen. The young man some have come to call the Danish Prince has been one of the best stories at Chelsea this season, his return from loan and emergence as a first-choice player going exactly according to the most ideal designs of Emenalo’s loan system madness. And if those plans continue unfolding just as perfectly, by the time we look back, he will be well on his way to a long career at Chelsea Football Club, a fixture in the side regardless of who might be in charge and what defensive system he might prefer, and perhaps even wearing the captain’s armband.
Much is expected from Christensen, who joined Chelsea as a 16-year-old and acquired the all-important homegrown designation while impressing in the youth teams before joining Borussia Mönchengladbach for two seasons. During that time, he played over 60 Bundesliga games and gained Champions League experience against the likes of Barcelona, Juventus, and Manchester City. And that’s all before age 21.
Despite that experience, Christensen is still very much a young player, especially for a position as crucial as center back. He’s even been playing the middle of the Conte’s three-man backline, which carries with it the most responsibility, ousting the much more experienced David Luiz, who excelled in that role during last season’s title win. So while Andreas has been very good for most of the season, he’s hit a bit of a rough patch lately. The Premier League can wear down even the best of the best, after all.
Christensen reflected on those recent mistakes and the season in general in his interview for the Chelsea Matchday Programme for Sunday’s game.
“It’s been a difficult time recently but I’m happy with the overall season.
“It is easy to just look at the recent games, but I try to remember I played probably 25-30 games with no mistakes at all before that. Everyone knows you can’t go through a whole season not making a mistake, as a defender - it is impossible.”
Christensen was in fact rested for the disappointing draw against West Ham — his replacement, Gary Cahill, incidentally was involved in just as crucial of an error as have crept into Christensen’s game lately — but this is a learning experience for the youngster and one the will make him stronger. There are no doubts about his commitment and desire and work ethic; he’s already shown that he can rise deal with dips in form well enough during his loan spell. These few mistakes will not define his career.
“That’s the bad part about our job - when there’s a good chance you’re the one getting pointed at, but you still have to take responsibility next time you get the ball and do what’s best for the team.
“It helped when you’ve got good team-mates who take care of you and a manager who believes in you. That’s only made things more comfortable for me, and now I want to progress even more.
“The first season I was at Borussia Monchengladbach, we lost the first five games and didn’t get a single point. After the first game, I didn’t play for the next four, but I came into the team again and, and although I made some mistakes, I overcame them and we won something like 15 games in a row after that bad run.
“We went from last place to third in that period, so I know anything can happen in football and that’s why it is such a great game. Things can change very quickly.”
-Andreas Christensen; source: Goal.com
For all the criticisms leveled at Conte, there’s no denying him the credit of placing his trust in Christensen, even if that means the occasional game-changing, lesson-inducing error. Other managers might have done the same, though given Chelsea’s recent history in this department, that’s far from a guarantee. This may be the last month of Conte’s tenure as Chelsea head coach, but perhaps part of his long-lasting legacy will be Christensen’s development.
The youngster should be back in the starting lineup next weekend, and with any luck, will be starting his first FA Cup final as well soon ... assuming he can refocus and put an end to his period of insecurity.