Two league games into the Maurizio Sarri era and little shoots of promise and optimism are appearing for the Chelsea faithful. The beginnings of an up-tempo, attractive and attacking style of play are there for all to see and once the players are adapted to it, Chelsea will be the best team to watch in the league. While this is all encouraging, there should be a little note of caution amongst Sarri and his staff. The attacking play has been good but the defence has looked awful at times. With N’Golo Kante now playing further forward, the centre of the defence looks vulnerable; especially David Luiz. Antonio Conte dropped the Brazilian last year in favour of the young Andreas Christensen, however, Sarri has been quick to reinstate Luiz back to the first 11 but is that the right decision?
COMPARISON (vs. Luiz)
If we compare Christensen’s statistics from last season to David Luiz’s when he was the first choice in Chelsea’s title-winning season, we can see that the younger centre-back would be the safer and better option. In terms of the basics of defending, Christensen tops Luiz in nearly all our metrics. When directly defending against an opposition player, Christensen was more successful than Luiz. The Danish international on average lost fewer tackles against his opponent, whereas Luiz lost over 1 tackle a game. Furthermore, Christensen came out on top in terms of duels as he won 60% of his duels on the pitch bettering his Brazilian teammate by nearly 10%. Christensen also dominated in the air; he won over two-thirds of his aerial duels, Luiz lags behind winning only 53%. Considering Luiz is the older of the pair, you would expect he would be more composed, however, he was more likely to concede a foul than Christensen.
COMPARISON (vs. Napoli CBs)
At Napoli, Sarri’s centre-backs were instructed to play on the front foot. With Sarri trying to transplant his Napoli style to this Chelsea squad, he would be wise to use the players at his disposal who could effectively replicate ‘Sarri-ball’. If we open up the Christensen and Luiz comparison to Napoli’s centre-back partnership last season’, then Christensen still comes out favourably. The Dane has the best pass completion of the four, completing 93% of his passes, showing that he wouldn’t be out of place in a Sarri side’s back four. Coming in last is Luiz who completes 85% of his passes, although we know that is because he tries the higher difficulty balls, the Centre Back that keeps possession would be the preferred option.
The only concern about the Danish international is his defensive errors statistic; the defenders in a Sarri system expose themselves to a lot of risks, so mistakes need to be kept to a minimum. Having made more than double the number of errors as the other Centre Backs last season, Christensen could end up becoming a liability. However, we can chalk up Christensen’s errors to inexperience, now, with a year of Premier League experience under his belt, you can expect those issues to be ironed out.