John Terry’s Heir
Last term wasn’t great by Chelsea’s standards, but in Andreas Christensen they may have found the long-term heir to JT’s throne – whether he likes it or not...
Chelsea’s Andreas Christensen is ready to take on the challenge – but not the armband
Denmark’s stalemate against France in their final group-stage match at this summer’s World Cup won’t feature heavily in any misty-eyed retrospectives. The two teams, content with the 0-0 draw that ensured they both reached the knockout rounds, were largely conservative in their approach and rarely took the kind of risks that could result in elimination. The Danes were so fearful of losing and heading home early that they deployed Chelsea defender Andreas Christensen in a midfield role, with the specific brief of nullifying France schemer Antoine Griezmann. After he’d spent the season in the middle of a three-man defence for the Blues, it was a move that represented a real change of gear for the 22-year-old from the small Danish town of Lillerod. But Christensen is not afraid to try out new things in the hope of bettering himself. That’s exactly why he spent two years on loan in the Bundesliga with Borussia Monchengladbach, before making his English breakthrough last term. “When you play in different countries, you end up in a lot of different situations on the pitch, so you learn a lot,” he tells FourFourTwo. “The football in Germany is more open and dynamic, whereas in England the football is more disciplined.” That’s not to say things were sedate at Stamford Bridge last season. Ever-growing uncertainty over the future of Antonio Conte didn’t help the Italian’s cause as his reigning champions struggled in the league, ultimately missing out on a lucrative place in the Champions League. Despite victory in the FA Cup final, the 2017-18 campaign would go down as, at best, a middling season for the west Londoners. It was a tough induction for Christensen, who played regularly in the first two-thirds of the season before flitting in and out towards the business end, then missing the Blues’ FA Cup success through injury. Regaining a Champions League berth in 2018-19 is a must for Chelsea, now managed by Maurizio Sarri, and Christensen will hope he can help them do so – wherever he plays...
Having spent two years on loan in Germany, how good did it feel to get the chance to prove yourself in Chelsea’s first team?
One of the reasons for going on loan was to be able to come back and fight for a place in the team. I’m really proud that I succeeded in doing so. I’m happy I got the opportunity and, although the first season after a period out on loan is always tough, I’m very happy overall with how my first season back at Chelsea went for me on a personal level.
How would you assess Chelsea’s 2017-18?
I guess you could say it was a little up and down for the whole season. The FA Cup victory saved us a bit – we got a trophy, which is a positive – but we weren’t good enough in the Premier League. It’s hard to tell exactly what went wrong; in some matches we just didn’t deliver, simple as that. We have the quality in the squad to be at the top of the league, but to do so we must be able to win matches even when we’re in a tricky period. We must prove that we’re a top team.
Was missing the FA Cup final disappointing?
It was disappointing not to be involved in the final in any way. It was one of those matches that I really wanted to play in. But I got an injury in my back two days before the final, so I couldn’t play. I joined the team at the hotel before the match, hoping I could be involved, but it just wasn’t possible. I would have loved to have been on the substitutes’ bench, but it didn’t make sense if I couldn’t play. I hope I get the chance next year. Previously, big teams haven’t made the Europa League their top priority. Will Chelsea aim to win it, as they did in 2013? I believe so. The culture at Chelsea is that each season we aim to win every competition we participate in – that includes the Europa League. Obviously it would be more exciting to win the Champions League, but when that isn’t possible, we must aim for other trophies.
What was it like to play against Lionel Messi and Luis Suarez when Chelsea faced Barcelona in the last 16 of the Champions League? Did you learn a lot from that?
You always learn a lot when you’re up against the best players in the world. But, personally, I don’t think facing those two is so different from facing other top players – they were just another two players who we needed to stop. Whether it’s Messi, Suarez or a less prolific attacker, the aim is always the same. During matches, I don’t think about which player I’m up against. My only focus is to stop them. Chelsea signed you at the age of 15. Was moving a difficult experience for you? In terms of football, it was very easy to adapt. It wasn’t really that difficult away from the pitch, either, even though it took a while to get used to being separated from my friends and family in Denmark. But the day-to-day at Chelsea was so busy that I always had something to do, which made it quite easy. You’ve previously said that John Terry was a big help when you started training with the first team. Did any of the other senior players take you under their wing? John Terry is a natural captain and he was very good at directing me, on and off the pitch. But, really, all the senior players made a point of looking out for me when I first got to train with the first team. They knew how difficult it could be for a young player making the step up for the first time. I felt like I was treated well, and that made it unproblematic for me. However, I’d have to single out John Terry as being particularly helpful. It gave me a real confidence boost that he, as Chelsea captain, had taken me under his wing. Antonio Conte suggested you could captain Chelsea one day. Is it an ambition of yours? Actually, I would have to say no – that has never been an ambition for me, because it doesn’t quite suit my personality. Obviously I would be extremely proud if it happened, but it’s not a specific goal for me. I prefer to let my feet do the talking, rather than my mouth!