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...

Australian Four Four Two - - CONTENTS -

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!

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