Thomas Tuchel’s arrival and early tactical and personnel preferences revitalized the fortunes of several long-tenured Chelsea players. Andreas Christensen was not one of those players. The 24-year-old who had dropped to firmly fourth choice under Lampard at center back remained a backup under Tuchel as well, even though we were now technically playing with three center backs!
But Thiago Silva’s unfortunate injury has given Christensen an unexpected opportunity to reestablish himself and play key minutes for the club he’s called home since 2012 (save for a couple seasons out on loan in the Bundesliga with Gladbach). He’s started the last three games in a row, something he hasn’t done since the tail end of last season, and he’s been earning some solid reviews, which he hasn’t done in a bit longer than that, even.
They key, as he revealed to Chelsea official, has been keeping things simple.
“All the manager says is just be comfortable. If you don’t need to play the ball, you don’t have to. Wait for someone to come and take the ball, don’t take last-second decisions, know what you’re going to do and make it happen.
“He just said to us to be comfortable and believe in ourselves. I have played in the middle of the three before and I’m quite comfortable there. At the moment, when we are playing good football and getting wins, it is helping us so we don’t have to do too much to change it.”
-Andreas Christensen; source: Chelsea FC
Christensen’s breakthrough for the senior team was indeed in the middle of a back-three, during Antonio Conte’s second season. At the time, one of his biggest shortcomings (at least on the ball) was a limited range and variety of passing, certainly when compared with the man who had played there previously (but was injured a lot in 2017-18), David Luiz. It appears we have solved that problem by simply not asking Christensen to do anything beyond his comfort zone, and letting others take care of that aspect of the build-up.
This may not be a good enough or sustainable solution going forward, but not forcing square pegs into round holes is a simple, yet usually effective way of at least getting quality performances out of players. And Tuchel’s doing precisely that with Christensen, who’s worked hard on improving some of the other weaknesses in his play, such as physicality or durability in the last couple years.
Christensen’s recent upturn in form and involvement may not last too much longer, and with just a year left on his contract after this season, his stay at Chelsea may not either, but for now, it’s all coming up milhouse.