Why Chelsea should keep Christensen over Rudiger

Date published: Saturday 12th February 2022 3:53 - Will Ford

Andreas Christensen and Antonio Rudiger could both leave Chelsea for free this summer. In an either/or situation, the heart says Rudiger, but Chelsea should go with their head.

 

There has been a great deal of transfer speculation surrounding Chelsea centre-backs this season. Thiago Silva has signed an extension, but both Andreas Christensen and Antonio Rudiger are out of contract in the summer and are currently being wooed by suitors who will be able to snaffle them for free come July.

Reports suggest Barcelona want Christensen and Real Madrid want Rudiger, but most teams in world football – given the option – would want both.

The limiting factor, for Chelsea and potential suitors, is their wage demands. Rudiger and Christensen currently earn £100,000 and £80,000 per week respectively; both want to double their earnings. Should Chelsea bend to their wills, Rudiger would become the fourth-highest earner at Chelsea, behind Romelu Lukaku (£325k), N’Golo Kante (£290k) and Timo Werner (£272k), while Christensen would be sixth after Ben Chilwell (£190k).

For context, Rudiger would also be the fourth-highest paid centre-back in the Premier League, behind Raphael Varane (£340k), John Stones (£250k) and Virgil van Dijk (£220k). Christensen would be sixth, behind Harry Maguire (£190k). Stacked up against teammates and counterparts, their demands aren’t unreasonable.

Many Chelsea fans will want the club to just pay them what they want to avoid uncertainty. They’re both excellent centre-backs with plenty of Premier League and Champions League experience; the grass is unlikely to be greener. But Chelsea have got every right to play hardball; they’re in an excellent negotiating position.

Gone are the days when the draw of Barcelona and Real Madrid was so great that any team wanting to hold onto a prized asset should just lie down and accept defeat. Barcelona are in the Europa League and Christensen and Rudiger were part of the Chelsea team to brush Madrid aside in the Champions League last season. It used to feel as though the Premier League was The Best League In The World simply because English people said it enough, but it now actually feels as though it’s the best league in the world. There is no better place to play football.

The doubt over Rudiger and Christensen’s futures has led to replacement pondering. Matthijs de Ligt is an alluring prospect at just 21 years old, but a transfer fee close to £100m and a weekly wage of £200,000 per week makes that proposition a nonstarter. Jules Kounde is the more likely acquisition. Chelsea agreed personal terms with the Frenchman – who currently earns £69,000 per week – last summer, but fell short of Sevilla’s £68m asking price, which has since reportedly dropped to around £50m.

Whether Chelsea keep Rudiger and Christensen or not, they will likely still target Kounde – Malang Sarr hasn’t quite cut it. But they may still find themselves in a situation, for whatever reason, in which they can keep one of Rudiger or Christensen, but not the other. The bean counters will see Christensen – younger and on a lower wage – as the best option, while the vast majority of those making a call on a pure footballing basis would opt for Rudiger.

Chelsea defender Antonio Rudiger celebrates his goal

But there is a case to suggest it’s Rudiger’s blood and thunder, rather than a clear skill advantage over Christensen, that means he’s perceived as the superior player.

The stats below, taken from the brilliant FBRef, are from the Premier League and La Liga this season, per 90 minutes unless otherwise stated, with the highlighted boxes denoting the best performer in each category.

Rudiger Christensen Kounde

Stats don’t show you everything, of course. Rudiger’s presence on the pitch – his leadership and the way the crowd responds to him – is a big bonus that can’t be measured. And we’re not privy to what goes on in the dressing room and in training, where again it feels as though Rudiger would be the greater asset.

And it’s clear through both quantitative and qualitative measures that Rudiger is the more effective attacking force. But the stats point quite clearly to Christensen being the better defender: more blocks, clearances and aerial duels won, as well as being the best in the Premier League when it comes to interceptions. Chelsea also earn more points on average (2.08 : 1.91) with Christensen in the team compared to Rudiger, and concede marginally fewer goals (0.72 : 0.78).

This isn’t to suggest Rudiger is a bad defender. He’s been brilliant for over a year now. It’s more to stick up for the little guy (who happens to be 6ft 2ins), who avoids any limelight through his calm demeanour compared to the rambunctiousness of his teammate, and is ignored – in discussions around the best defenders in the Premier League – because of that circumspection. Joel Matip suffers in a similar way.

Faced with the quandary, Chelsea should consider keeping Christensen over Rudiger. Because as the old saying goes: he who shouts loudest isn’t always the best at breaking the press through percentage dribble successes.

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