Andreas Christensen (vs Borussia Dortmund, 23/01/16)
(Ball-playing; positioning; awareness; decision-making/fundamental errors; speed/strength (/how to overcome them))
There were a couple of moments when team-mates on the ball around him seemed to think about passing to him and then decide against it, which can sometimes give you an idea of their skill on the ball, an spectre of an absence of trust. There was once instance where he took a heavy touch which led on to a bad pass, though for the rest of the match he was largely average; nothing special, nothing bad. He did manage a midfield splitting pass which set up a good Mönchengladbach attack though, which hints at an ability that perhaps just needs to be refined.
There were moments when Christensen definitely displayed good positioning skill, one of which we’ll see a little later – or, at least, positioning that I would be favourable of. Everyone has preferences for different things and I generally try and acknowledge when a player does something which I don’t like but might actually be perfectly fine.
It was generally ok (I’ve written HERE about what I think of what is required of centre-backs, by the way, which explains why I generally say ‘a lot of it was ok’ quite a bit in regard to defenders) however there were a few times when it seemed questionable. For example, for Dortmund’s first goal, Christensen isn’t responsible but I’m unsure on his positioning in the centre, personally feeling that he seems a little in no-man’s land.
While his positioning was generally good or above average, his awareness was a little more disappointing. Here we see a bit of both.
The dropping off is good positional play, giving himself space to follow the run of the striker so that he isn’t caught out. However, isn’t aware of the forward making the run across him until it has already happened. This is probably also the most distinct example of the difference between (what I call, at least) positioning and awareness.
Decision making/fundamental errors
There were only two instances of decision making that deserved note in this match, and both link strongly to other categories.
The first was late in the first half, choosing to close down Reus instead of following the route back to his own position where a Dortmund player (who he was seemingly unaware of) was also running.
It’s a difficult choice to argue over – Reus wasn’t really covered by any other player and is clearly a threat, however he was in a relatively bad position compared to the other Dortmund players who could have received a cross in the centre.
The second example was an even more difficult decision, though again he didn’t seem fully aware of the other option. For Dortmund’s 2nd he followed Aubameyang tightly leaving Mkhitaryan in acres of space to score.
Saying that he shouldn’t have followed Aubameyang is nonsensical though, but perhaps he could have left the run earlier to stay more central, giving him a better chance to get to both players in case they received a pass.
Speed/strength (/how to overcome them)
Christensen is a fairly tall guy (around 6ft 2) and also seems fairly quick, considering his height, both of which are useful assets for a centre-back to have. He also won a bunch of aerial duels, showing that not only is he tall but that he converts it into a proper aerial presence too.
It’s worth bearing in mind that a) I tend to be fairly critical in writing these and b) he’s only 19. For his age, he is certainly at a good level, and he would not be playing at Borussia Mönchengladbach regularly if he was bad. However, his limitations in his awareness makes me think that his talent ceiling, the upper reaches of what ability he can reach, isn’t *that* high.
Judging from this match, I think that, while he could ‘do a job’ for most sides (but then, as I say in the article linked to above, I think almost anyone can ‘do a job’ for most sides), he would only really be a regular for upper mid-table Premier League sides and would certainly be out of his depth against the better European sides. When he gets older, I think he could possibly be a starter for a Europa League level team, or a lower Champions League side, but would be someone that you’d ideally want to improve upon if you were trying to challenge for the next level. However, at 19, it’s hard to tell on that front.