The Chelsea loan policy has been widely criticised in recent seasons as they stockpile the best young talent and send them out to other clubs to develop. This is done in the hope that a handful can reach the level required to play in the Blues’ first team. There have been a few noticeable failures as Romelu Lukaku and Kevin de Bruyne were unhappy with their treatment by the club. Both players then forced permanent transfers away and are now plying their trade at rival teams.
Since the arrival of Antonio Conte, the path to the first team is more accessible than ever and one player to make a real impact during the opening few months of this season is Andreas Christensen. The centre-back returned from a two-year loan with Borussia Monchengladbach and those that had watched him at the German club knew of his quality. He was one of the most consistent defenders in the Bundesliga and deserved a chance in the Chelsea team upon his return.
However, the Blues had just lifted the Premier League title and had a settled back-three partnership with David Luiz, Gary Cahill and Cesar Azpilicueta. The arrival of Antonio Rudiger pushed the Danish international further down the pecking order, but his quality has shone through and he is now emerging as a first-team regular for the champions. The competition in the squad is healthy and he isn’t guaranteed to start every week, but he is now in a stronger position than he was in at the beginning of the season.
The centre-back has played in 17 matches already this season, which underlines his importance to the squad. It is crucial to be comfortable on the ball to thrive in a back-three and Christensen is assured in possession. He always looks to play a positive pass and he rarely concedes possession. In the Premier League, he has a pass completion of 93.2%. He is very effective at launching attacks from deep and that is why Conte has given him a prominent role.
In defence, he takes up the right positions and is an impressive reader of the game for a player of his age. The 21-year-old averages 2.4 ball recoveries and 3.3 clearances per game in the Premier League. The English game is physical and during his time in the Bundesliga, Christensen developed that side of his game and he is now able to compete in this division. He is currently averaging 1.6 successful aerial duels. Although his defensive attributes are far from perfect, he is making progress in every department and his potential is clear.
During recent transfer windows, the Blues have been outspent by a few of their rivals and they are no longer the financially dominant team in the division. Chelsea need to make the most of the talent that they own and in Conte, they have a coach that is willing to give players a chance. Christensen has been the player to benefit this season and at the age of 21, he has the potential to become one of the best defenders in the league. He has a long way to go before he is a guaranteed starter, but his progression during the opening months suggests that it is only a matter of time.