As a sports writer, a large part of my job consists of sharing my thoughts with the readers of theprideoflondon.com. Anybody who has been a part of our wonderful community for the last year will know that during my time as Co-Site Expert, I have not shied away from making my personal opinions known. Leading up to the Atletico Madrid match, I believed Chelsea should start Kurt Zouma alongside Antonio Rudiger and Cesar Azpilicueta—opposed to Andreas Christensen. It’s safe to say now that I could not have been more wrong, and that makes me smile from ear to ear.
Christensen put in a Man of the Match worthy performance against the Spanish side. He played a large part in the Blues earning their best victory of the season, a 1-0 away win in the first leg of the UCL Round of 16 tie.
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Thomas Tuchel’s side picked up a vital victory over Diego Simeone’s La Liga leaders, and while the talk of the town will undoubtedly be Olivier Giroud’s breathtaking winner, the defense deserves some credit too. Atletico’s approach and style of play was no secret in this game; the Spaniards were going to sit back and try to hit the Blues on the counterattack. However, the counter was non-existent due to some excellent positional play from the visitors. Simeone’s men registered zero shots on target throughout the entirety of the match, not because of a lack of effort though.
Azpilicueta, Christensen and Rudiger cut out countless Atletico passes to stop the counter dead in its tracks. The three at the back also made adept decisions to shut down attacking lanes. Azpilicueta and Rudiger pushed around Joao Felix and Angel Correa, making life uncomfortable up top for them. Many will remember Rudiger’s mini-row with Luis Suarez, but it was actually Christensen who silenced the Uruguayan for most of the night.
Christensen has come under a lot of fire over the years for his soft style of play. However, when it came time to face off against one of the world’s most physical forwards, the 24-year-old rose to the occasion. His positioning and awareness were huge reasons for his success, helped a lot by Tuchel’s management. Christensen was taken off at halftime of the match against Barnsley almost two weeks ago after a mediocre half of football. The difference in play was shocking between that match and this one; in the end, it boils down to one thing—position.
Christensen’s worst performance of the season—away to Barnsley—saw him play on the right side of a back three. However, Tuchel deployed Christensen in the center of the defense against Atletico, somewhere he has looked strong in the absence of Silva. Tuchel’s taken a lot of his formational ideas from Antonio Conte’s 3-4-3, this includes Christensen’s position. Now, after the Dane has stepped in to cover for Silva during his absence, there is talk about Christensen being Silva’s successor and long-time anchor at the back for Chelsea.
These talks are refreshing after so many questions being asked about his future in west London.
Nearly three years ago to the day, Christensen’s career took a turn for the worst after a massive mistake against Barcelona. Leading 1-0 in the 75′, the youngster played a sloppy pass into a risky position in front of goal. It eventually found the feet of Andres Iniesta, who slotted it through the middle to Lionel Messi. The Argentine was essentially gifted his first goal against the Blues and Christensen’s sloppiness killed the momentum the home side had in the first leg. They’d go on to lose the tie and Christensen has yet to play the same since that day.
Hopefully this can be a rebirth though. Christensen is an insanely talented footballer and he’s Chelsea through and through. His showing against Atletico was vintage Christensen, which is exactly what the doctor ordered against one of Europe’s best sides.