In the final instalment of our mini-series retelling a particular story from each of our triumphant European campaigns ahead of the return of Champions League football this month, we analyse the critical role played by Andreas Christensen last season...
Olivier Giroud’s goals, Willian’s assists and the growing influence of Ruben Loftus-Cheek and Callum Hudson-Odoi grabbed the headlines on our path to Europa League glory last season.
Lesser acknowledged, but no less important, was the calming presence of Andreas Christensen at the back. The Danish defender was the only player to start all 15 games, of which we did not lose a single one. The only minutes he missed were due to an injury sustained in the second half of our semi-final second-leg success over Eintracht Frankfurt.
He was back for the final against Arsenal and produced arguably his best display in the competition, as we kept the Gunners out save for one superb long-range effort with the scoreline already 3-0 in our favour.
Christensen was also immense in Frankfurt, completing the most number of passes, winning a game-high five aerial duels and coming out on top in two tackles as we pinned our German opponents back.
Indeed, over the course of the 2018/19 Europa League campaign, Christensen’s stats stand out. He played over 300 more passes than anyone else, registering 1100 in total. For those players who made 500 passes or more, Christensen had the second best pass completion rate, with 92.9 per cent finding a Chelsea team-mate. Only Real Betis’ William Carvalho was more consistently accurate.
Christensen’s reading of the game and timing have always been two of his greatest assets, and they were regularly on display on the continent last term. His 22 interceptions were the fifth-most in the tournament, while he was only dribbled past on two occasions, by some distance the best figure going.
‘For me personally, the cup games and the Europa League this season have been very important, it has kept me up to speed,’ Christensen said ahead of the first leg against Slavia Prague last April.
‘It is always healthy competition in the team,’ he added of the contest for central defence positions with the likes of David Luiz and Toni Rudiger.
‘We try to push each other and obviously it is not fun to be the one playing less. In the Europa League and the cup games I have been trying to show myself, and in training.
‘Obviously I want play every game but it has taken frustration a little bit out of it, getting playing time, and it has helped me a lot.’
Crucially it helped the team, too, with eight clean sheets out of 15 recorded and one major trophy secured, the second of Christensen’s career. Nobody had earned it more.
Watch past classic Chelsea matches in The 5th Stand app! Head to the Watch section and scroll down where you'll find highlights of some of our greatest matches and European campaigns...