The now-bearded Antonio Conte spoke about a perceived spat between himself and David Luiz recently. A player who is massively popular in the stands and the dressing room, Luiz was dropped for a massive match against Manchester United. “It’s very simple, no? [..] Tonight the best decision for the team was to play with Christensen.” Of course, Conte is referring to Andreas Christensen, the so-called Danish Prince himself.
After dominating at youth levels and a handful of cup appearances at right back, Christensen had spent the past two seasons on loan with Borussia Monchengladbach. Returning this season, many stated that this was the real test of Chelsea’s academy. Beyond accomplished, dozens of Champions League appearances, an established international, he would cost any club £30 million or more today. Would he be given the chance to play? Many identify him as Chelsea’s future, but the young Dane is showing that he is Chelsea‘s present.
Premier League, Meet Andreas Christensen
Christensen is the epitome of a modern defender. In most cases, this is said as a slight against a player. John Stones is a modern defender. Usually, a ball-player who is throwing off the shackles of ‘proper defending’. Christensen, though, is a modern defender. He is both a prodigious passer and tenacious tackler. He reads the game the way a 40-year-old does. The questions posed about his physical ability are answered as he slyly steps in front of 6-foot-4, 190 pound Salomon Rondon. Despite his mental acumen to avoid compromising positions, he does alright in a wrestle.
However, Christensen is still learning. At only 21, he is only going to get better. That is the scary better. In the young Dane, Chelsea have a player who has readily usurped the Premier League’s best defender last season. David Luiz was integral to Chelsea’s switch to the 3-4-3. But Christensen has made the role his own. He plays the role differently than Luiz. Calmer, more assured, he steps into midfield on the dribble. He creates good angles at the back. Sure, he does not hit 75 yard Hollywood passes but his ability to find players in between lines is far and away the best for a defender in the Premier League.
Young Player of The Year?
It is a shame that attackers scoop up all the awards. Whether the Young Player of the Year award finds its way to Leroy Sane or Gabriel Jesus, it is unlikely Christensen will be called up to the stage. But if he continues, he might be the most sought after defender in Europe. Having already rebuked a permanent offer from Gladbach, and potential interest from Barcelona, he looks set to be a key part of Chelsea’s future. Joining the club at 16, with all the youth accolades, Christensen could be a beacon of hope for future academy prospects. The likes of Dujon Sterling and Ruben Loftus-Cheek will say ‘Hold on, I might have a shot here.’
It is a tough spot but Christensen might be exactly the player Chelsea needs right now. A young, club trained player. Tactically flexible, astute, someone to build around. Antonio Conte took over a team in flux and somehow squeezed a title out of a failing and fractured squad. Christensen might just be the cornerstone upon which the transition is built.