Professional football is a game of confidence and form. Few know this principle better than Chelsea centerback Andreas Christensen. He’s spent the majority of his career with the Blues chasing shadows, trying to fill John Terry’s shoes. This is not by choice, but rather by unfair comparisons. Christensen was on track to achieve greatness until the infamous error against Barcelona later that year raised concerns about his future. He looked a shell of himself in years following under Antonio Conte, Maurizio Sarri and Frank Lampard. Enter Thomas Tuchel.
Tuchel’s arrival saw Christensen get onto the pitch a lot more than under previous regimes. He was the de facto first-choice centerback replacement for whenever one of Antonio Rudiger, Thiago Silva or Cesar Azpilicueta got injured. Christensen continually stepped in—most notably in the Champions League final—and put on defensive clinics that look to have finally restored his confidence. The Dane has now taken that form and continued it with his country as he prepares for contract talks with his club. The Blues have no choice but to re-sign Christensen though as he has made himself Tuchel’s most important centerback going forward.
There has been a lot of discussion over the last few months about Chelsea’s summer targets. A striker, defensive midfielder and even a right wingback have been linked heavily, but the talks surrounding a central defender have transitioned into whispers. A world class centerhalf is what a large portion of Blues supporters felt the team needed some months ago. Although a few may still believe this, Tuchel’s arrival solidified the defense and subsequently silenced these rumors.
The latter portion of the Chelsea fanbase will cite a lack of availability when it involves top, young centerbacks. Recently, Ruben Dias (Manchester City), Dayot Upamecano (Bayern Munich) and Ibrahima Konate (Liverpool) have all come off the market. There is no shortage of reliable options though with big names like Maxence Lacroix, Pau Torres and Jules Kounde still available. Therefore, it’s safe to assume that Christensen’s newfound form is the reason the Blues have seemingly paused their pursuit for a centerback.
While Christensen, 25, may not be as young as those mentioned above, he’s got a majority of his career still ahead of him. He’s the youngest member of the Blues’ central defensive unit and with players like Silva and Azpilicueta nearing their late and mid-30s respectively, it’ll soon be time to turn to new faces. The Lillerod native provides continuity and experience in a defense that could soon lack those qualities.
Christensen’s also spent the last few months bouncing around the back line. Tuchel has experimented with slightly different tactics that have seen the Dane get onto the pitch whenever seemingly possible. He surpassed the 2,000-minute mark on the season, playing mostly as a middle centerback, but also on the right. There will of course be those skeptics who claim that regardless of his minutes, he was always a second choice. This may be true, but when the options in front of you are the legendary Silva and club captain Azpilicueta, there is no shame in playing second fiddle sometimes. Tuchel’s faith in Christensen is apparent. If the German gaffer didn’t believe in the 25-year-old’s abilities, he wouldn’t have given him starts against Atletico Madrid, Porto and Real Madrid in the Champions League. It’s obvious who Tuchel sees as a future leader for Chelsea.
Christensen also possesses Premier League experience, a priceless trait in today’s market. He’s spent the last four seasons (5,809 minutes, or the equivalent of 64 full length matches) playing in the world’s toughest league. There is uncertainty whenever English clubs purchase players from abroad, there is no question as to what the Blues get with Christensen.
When you consider all of these factors, one would be hard pressed to find more a valuable prospect for sale at this moment in time. This does not mean Chelsea should stop pursuing a centerback though, the aforementioned veteran duo will need replacements sooner rather than later. Christensen’s extension should just be the top priority to a club looking to mirror the defensive stability of other heavy hitters in the English top flight. The fact that both Tuchel and Conte—the most successful Chelsea managers in recent years—trusted the Dane at the back of their rock solid defenses should speak volumes about the talent he possesses. To that point, few have ever questioned the centerback’s abilities, it’s been about mentality all along. Nothing cures low confidence quite like winning the biggest prize in club football.