Interview

Christensen on centre-back competition and feeling comfortable in 3-4-3

With all eyes on our attacking exploits at the Emirates, a second successive clean sheet perhaps went under the radar but not for Andreas Christensen, who has hailed the competition for defensive positions as a key factor in our recent rearguard resilience.

The Dane replaced Kurt Zouma in the second half of our UEFA Super Cup triumph in Belfast before featuring throughout in back-to-back London derby victories against Crystal Palace and Arsenal.

Against the Gunners in particular, he was exceptional in the centre of the three-man defence, recording more passes than any player on the pitch at a 94 per cent success rate, as well as winning three aerial duels and making four clearances.

It was an individual display that typified the composed and controlled performance of our defence, with the Gunners kept at arm’s length throughout, just as the Eagles had been a week earlier.

With skipper Cesar Azpilicueta returning to the side, there was a new partner to the right of Christensen, while Trevoh Chalobah, Thiago Silva and Kurt Zouma were all unused substitutes. Such a wealth of riches at the disposal of Thomas Tuchel offers plenty of selection dilemmas but also a healthy competition that the players are thriving from.

‘Trevoh deserved to start with the way he’s been playing in the Super Cup and against Crystal Palace,’ claimed Christensen. ‘He’s pushing all of us to do better.

‘We have Thiago and Kurt as well so everyone is working hard. It’s only the start of the season so it’s still a tough moment, especially because we’ve all had only a short holiday.

‘It’s difficult to get going but the team has looked good and sharp, with everyone trying to push each other.’

Chelsea’s 3-4-3 worked well once again in north London, with wing-backs Marcos Alonso and Reece James particularly effective against Arsenal’s narrow back four.

The shape has been honed since Tuchel’s arrival and the subsequent switch to three at the back in late January, with Christensen having clocked up 19 of his 27 club appearances last term under the German.

‘We just know it so well,’ he said of the system. ‘Even the new players who have come in are familiar with it and the team is just feeling comfortable.

‘We feel like we can play our game no matter in that system so it suits us well.’

Our strong start to the season will be put to the test at Anfield on Saturday evening. Something will have to give, with Liverpool also on six points from six and without conceding a goal, and Christensen expects the sternest of assignments on Merseyside.

‘We’ve looked strong but so have Liverpool so we’re expecting a tough game, like always when we go there,’ he added.

‘Both teams have looked very good from the beginning so we’ll just have to see who comes out on top.’

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