Chelsea defender Andreas Christensen has strangely been benched after needing a mental rest. That should not be a concern unless it carries over.
The moment where things started to fall apart for Andreas Christensen is clear to see. It was the first leg of the Chelsea versus Barcelona Champions League tie. Christensen errantly passed a ball back across the Chelsea box which Lionel Messi eventually pounced on.
From there, mistakes crept into Christensen’s game. The cool, calm, and collected demeanor he had previously gave way to self doubt and sloppiness. Antonio Conte eventually admitted that Christensen was mentally fatigued. This is not Christensen’s heaviest season in regards to playing time (so far), but it is the most mentally taxing. Conte responded by benching Christensen against West Ham United.
And on paper, that should have been the end of it. A day off to get his head straight was understandably needed. And though Christensen returned against Southampton in the Premier League, he has yet to start in the three matches sense. That should not be concerning at the current moment. The concern comes if i carries into the new season.
Antonio Conte is keen on rotation, especially with two or more matches in one week. But he also tends to favor the players he considers more in form. And based on recent performances, the three center backs most in form are Cesar Azpilicueta, Antonio Rudiger, and Gary Cahill.
But it is strange that Chelsea had two matches in the same week and Conte opted to stick with the same backline for both. It is even stranger that a week split the Southampton FA Cup match and the Swansea Premier League match, yet Christensen remained on the bench as the same backline started.
Perhaps Christensen’s mental fatigue goes beyond what is currently known publicly. Perhaps Conte merely wants to reward consistency on the pitch with more playing time. Chelsea only have four matches left in the season and Christensen is bound to play at least one. And if he only plays one, that is ok. The only time worry should creep in is if he remains benched next season.
It is currently unclear as to who will be manager next year. Or if Chelsea will reinforce in defense. But it would be concerning if Conte decided Christensen was no longer good enough to start. It would be even more concerning if a new manager came in and made the same judgement.
Christensen was one of the season’s brightest sparks before the Barcelona fixture. He was the first Chelsea academy graduate to really lay down a marker since John Terry. But if his playing time is suddenly a doubt, the dream of Christensen leading the line for years to come could tragically end.
Young players, no matter how skilled, will make young mistakes. They will struggle with the pressure that they have little experience with. What is important is that the manager that trusts them does not give up on them. Conte has not yet and hopefully a potential new manager will see Christensen’s quality through the current fog.
This is a situation to keep an eye on going into the summer and new season. It is perfectly understandable that Christensen may be worn out from this season. But it is important to bring him back into the fold as soon as he is ready once more.