Opinion

Andreas Christensen's contract stand-off taking toll on Chelsea's defence

Tom Gott
Christensen is struggling at Chelsea
Christensen is struggling at Chelsea / Visionhaus/GettyImages
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Defensively, Chelsea have been a shambles on and off the pitch in recent weeks.

They shipped three against West Ham and replicated that feat against Zenit, before conceding twice against Leeds United and relying on two Jorginho penalties to get them out of a hole. That's eight goals in three games - the same amount as they conceded over their previous 18 matches before this run.

Coincidentally, all that has happened at the same time as the uncertainty over the future of Chelsea's defenders has started to ramp up.

Antonio Rudiger is heading closer to the exit door and Cesar Azpilicueta's interest has reportedly been piqued by Barcelona, but the most concerning issue is that of Andreas Christensen, whose extension was all but done before the Dane decided to pull out of talks.

Thomas Tuchel has laid down the gauntlet for Christensen, challenging him to put his money where his mouth is and prove he actually wants to stay, but that hasn't happened yet. The drama continues to spiral, and the impact that is having on the centre-back is painfully clear.

Seen as perhaps the club's best defender, and the man keeping Thiago Silva out of the team, just a few weeks ago, Christensen's stock has plummeted with a handful of unconvincing performances of late.

He's obviously not to blame entirely for all of Chelsea's woes. Edouard Mendy had a howler against West Ham, Jorginho didn't help and Marcos Alonso's lack of pace was ruthlessly exploited against Leeds. Everyone at Chelsea has been off it, but given all that is going on in the background, it's Christensen's slump which feels the most frustrating.

In his years as a first-team regular, it has been made clear that Christensen doesn't particularly enjoy the spotlight. He's a quiet defender who doesn't want to do a lot of talking and just wants to put his foot through the ball. Now, with this contract uncertainty, he has taken centre stage.

Jarrod Bowen, Andreas Christensen
Christensen is looking wobbly again / Alex Pantling/GettyImages

Whether it's that pressure, an inability to handle the speculation or something else that is impacting Christensen, it's clear that something isn't right at the minute.

Indecision has plagued the Dane on the pitch. He's allowing passes through that wouldn't have had a chance last month and is looking flustered in the exact situations in which he used to dominate. The Zenit draw was littered with poor positions and a lack of intensity, and it was a similar story during his brief cameo against Leeds.

Marcelo Bielsa's side took advantage of his reluctance and that contributed to the equaliser which almost proved fatal.

Tuchel has work to do with Chelsea's entire back line, and Christensen should absolutely not be scapegoated for the Blues' recent struggles, but you can't help but feel like there's a pretty easy way to lift some of the pressure off his shoulders.

A contract extension with Christensen was all but done, with Chelsea twice believing that they had an agreement thrashed out, but the goalposts keep shifting and those in charge at Stamford Bridge are growing tired of it.

Tuchel gave Christensen a spell out of the team to try and get his head right, but Trevoh Chalobah's injury has forced his hand and seen the 25-year-old restored to the team, perhaps not on merit.

With Chalobah nearing a comeback, it could be time for Christensen to head back to the bench while this contract dilemma reaches a conclusion, positive or otherwise.

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