Andreas Christensen was the first academy first team player in over a decade, but Chelsea’s youth revolution has been leaving him behind.
The 2016/2017 season was the last time the fan base as a whole felt immensely confident about Chelsea’s future. The Blues were prancing their way to a then record setting Premier League title on the back of a tactical masterclass. The team had a world class manager in Antonio Conte, a strong squad, and one particular Danish center back out on loan waiting to return.
Andreas Christensen was thrust into the first team overnight, making him the first academy graduate since John Terry to make that leap. Michael Emenalo, content to finally see any fruit at all from his labor, departed Chelsea with his job done. Things were going well for Christensen and Chelsea’s youth, finally.
Then the Barcelona mistake happened. Christensen was never quite the same that season and was phased out for the run in. Maurizio Sarri never trusted the young defender, opting instead for David Luiz of all players. That trend continued under Frank Lampard (albeit without Luiz) all the way until 2020 when Christensen finally started getting a look. But after having started the youth revolution, Christensen now feels as though he is being left behind by it.
Christensen has made only 20 appearances this season, only four more than the nearly constantly injured Antonio Rudiger. Exactly half of those came before the New Year, but from October through December Christensen only saw the field three times.
The New Year has been kinder to Christensen (at the expense of Fikayo Tomori) but overall, it will be hard for the Danish centerback to look back on his last two years since the Barcelona gaff as a success.
At 23, he is entering the period where center backs generally start locking down on all their issues. Perhaps he is doing so now with Lampard’s new found trust in him. But when every other youth player is walking into the first team with ease, Christensen (the one who started it all in the current youth era) is still fighting to prove himself.
This would be less of a concern if other clubs were not sniffing around. Barcelona is constantly interested on some level or another. Many German clubs would love to have him, even if only off the back of his Gladbach performances way back when now. Some smoke has started to show up about AC Milan as well now.
The question is how long does Christensen accept that he must fight for a place? While at Gladbach, fans were begging to bring him back. He walked into the Chelsea first team, only to fall out of it the following two seasons. At what point does he try to cut his losses and move to a place that will play him like was seemingly promised in blue two years ago?
Whenever the Premier League does return, if Chelsea truly wants to keep Christensen they will need to play him. That was the case leading into the break and it should be the case coming out of it as well. If nothing else, he can get a chance to lead the youth revolution he started.