- ‘Gladbach vs Barcelona: 28 September 2016
- Fiorentina vs ‘Gladbach: 23 February 2017
- ‘Gladbach vs Schalke: 16 March 2017
If you’re reading this then you probably watched the video put together on Andreas Christensen, so I won’t go over much of the ground covered in that in detail. This is intended to be a supplementary article, because you can’t talk about everything in a 3-minute vid. If you haven’t seen it, here it is:
The video opens with a mention that Christensen looks pretty good in the middle of a 3, but his weaknesses are a little more exposed in a centre-back duo, which is to be expected. The middle role in a 3 can be pretty forgiving for a centre-back as you’re both a sweeper and a reference point for the wider centre-backs. Back 3s, the ones I’ve seen anyway for Chelsea, Tottenham, and bits of Mönchengladbach now, have also all been pretty deep defensive lines, which can also shelter a centre-back and make them look better than they are, or probably more accurately cover for their deficiencies.
It’s worth noting that Christensen’s positioning is generally pretty good, and in the three games that I watched for the report (and some of his games I’ve seen previously) there aren’t any terrible and consistent errors to speak of.
I wrote this on him 18 months ago, and was perhaps a little harsh on him in the conclusion of it, but he performed worse there than in the more recent games for the video, and also, obviously, has developed. There were some ball-watching based issues there too, though generally only in high-pressured situations rather than something he does all of the time.
Something not mentioned in the video, apart from in passing, is his footwork. For a guy of his size (6 foot 2, I think, and with wide enough shoulders that you’d be understanding if he turned out to be an oaf), he has very light, quick feet. Not only does it allow him to change direction while running or backpedalling without slowing him down, but it means that he can snap a leg out to make tackles in those moments where the chance to take the ball away is only there for a split-second.
In terms of his ability on the ball, the examples in the video will maybe make people overly excited, but I found his dummy on Suarez too funny to leave out, and the second clip (against Schalke) was another good example of dummying a striker on his back, before making himself available for a pass from the goalkeeper. Had there been more time in the 3 minutes, I’d have included a clip from the game against Schalke where there pressing style limited options available to him and he was eventually almost suffocated into losing the ball. Elsewhere he showed good moments, but he’s not the kind of visionary that you’d rely on to break through an opponent who were limiting your build-up.
I said in my article on him 18 months ago that ‘he would only really be a regular for upper mid-table Premier League sides’ and ‘when he gets older, I think he could possibly be a starter for a Europa League level team, or a lower Champions League side’. I caught him on a bad game, fairly isolated against a good Dortmund side which showed up a lot of his deficiencies several times. My conclusion was wrong, I admit (although the analysis itself still holds up).
At 21, I think he’d slot in pretty comfortably into Chelsea’s team though you’d expect some mistakes if he was playing regularly. Chelsea’s performances in 2016/17 were stable enough that he could probably be fine in the wider centre-back role (where he’d maybe be more likely to play), but if they’re relatively open then there might be a few problems. In the middle of the 3, I imagine that he could slot in as a replacement for a few games with no significant trouble.
In the future, it’s hard to tell. The big areas for improvement are the blinkered-ness that he gets, and this is still evident 18 months after I first noticed it. Football is not a sport where people often talk in detail about what skills improve in players as they get older and develop, and which are likely to improve and which aren’t. I’m not sure to what extent the blinkers will improve, but the example against Barcelona where he heads away the pass after turning to see the run makes me think that his general awareness may well improve a bit over time.
Bear in mind that this video report was only based on three games, but you can hardly watch every minute that they play can you, eh.
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