Seven years since making his Chelsea debut, Andreas Christensen reflects on his early days as a Blue, the strides he took while on loan in Germany, and his relationship with Thomas Tuchel…
Andreas Christensen has been involved in the Chelsea men's first team for so long now it is easy to forget he is only 25.
Regularly invited to train with the senior squad when he was just 16 having excelled in our Academy, the Danish defender was then named on the bench for our final fixture of the epic 2012/13 campaign, against Everton.
That was a month after his 17th birthday. A few months after his 18th, in October 2014, he made his Chelsea debut. Shrewsbury Town were our League Cup fourth round opponents and Christensen was deployed by Jose Mourinho at right-back.
‘It’s hard for a young player to come over the road from the Academy,’ recalls Andreas seven years on.
‘At the time, you are so nervous. You want to show what qualities you’ve got and make sure they can see a future for you.
‘I just remember taking it all in, every session, not only from the manager but the players that were here. I came the season after we won the Champions League in 2012. All the players that were there had experienced different things, so I just tried to take everything in.
‘I was quite lucky we had a few of us training a lot with the first team: Nathan Ake, Lewis Baker, Ruben, me. That made the transition a little bit easier. At the same time, you are young, so you don’t really think about the consequences too much when you’re that young. You know you won’t play a Premier League game straightaway, so you’re just enjoying training and taking it all in.’
It was on the final day of our victorious 2014/15 title-winning campaign that Christensen did make his league bow for the Blues, as a substitute against Sunderland.
However, it was apparent to Andreas regular playing time at Chelsea was still a while away. So to ensure the progress Christensen was making continued apace, a decision was made for him to join Borussia Monchengladbach on loan.
‘It was the first big step I took,’ he says.
‘I joined the first team here, but I was 18, so I knew I wasn’t really going to get the games I needed to keep developing. Having not played any regular first team football, the Bundesliga seemed right for me, and it turned out to be.
‘It was only supposed to be a year, but I wanted to make it two years so I had one year to learn the league and the second year to really push for it. I ended up playing the first year as well, so it was perfect for me.
‘It also made me grow as a person. I still lived in digs when I was here. Living on your own does something to you, it’s hard to explain what it is, but you have to take care of yourself and be ready to perform.’
Following two excellent seasons in Germany, Christensen’s first campaign back at the Bridge yielded 41 appearances in all competitions. He shone in the heart of a back three under Antonio Conte, earning a regular spot in Denmark’s defence in the process.
Christensen says Conte was ‘so specific about what he wanted you to do, and for a defender that is all you can ask for if you want to learn’.
'I know what kind of football he likes'
— Christensen on Tuchel
Under first Maurizio Sarri and then Frank Lampard, Christensen’s playing time dropped off somewhat, although he was a regular in cup competitions, including the victorious Europa League campaign in which he missed just 46 minutes of our 15 games.
Since Thomas Tuchel’s arrival, Christensen’s form and sustained fitness has made him a regular once more, most often in the heart of the back three.
‘We played against each other in the Bundesliga,’ Christensen says of his history with Tuchel, taking the story back to his Gladbach days.
‘I know what kind of football he likes. I just try to listen and do what he wants, be myself, play my game and so far it’s been working out.’
You can say that again, Andreas!