Antonio Conte’s masterstroke: New role for Andreas Christensen vs Roma

Chelsea boss Antonio Conte is considering pushing Andreas Christensen into midfield for his side’s Champions League group stage clash with Roma.

The Blues sit top of their group after two wins from two, the last of which came during a brilliant 2-1 win away at Atletico Madrid.

Chelsea’s fortunes on home soil have not been as smooth and Conte was furious after his side lost to Crystal Palace on Saturday.

Alvaro Morata could return against Roma but Chelsea’s small squad has been hit by injuries to N’Golo Kante and Victor Moses.

It’s left Conte short of options and he’s considering putting Christensen into a midfield three against the Serie A giants, according to the Telegraph.

Chelsea’s best performance of the season away at Atletico came with a three-man midfield and Eden Hazard was paired with Morata up top.

David Luiz is another option to push into midfield, having played there in Chelsea’s 2-1 win against Tottenham in August.

Everybody would lose if Chelsea recalled Tammy Abraham from his loan

While Michy Batshuayi was having a strop after 54 minutes at Selhurst Park, Tammy Abraham was scoring a brace for Swansea City. Even if a January recall is possible, Chelsea should not interrupt Abraham’s loan.

A common cry from Chelsea fans and pundits over the last few days is that Chelsea loaned the wrong striker to Swansea City. Tammy Abraham’s double gave Swansea the win and moved them out of the relegation places. He made a stark contrast to Michy Batshuayi’s empty performance in Chelsea’s loss that extended the gap to nine points.

No one outside of Stamford Bridge or the Liberty Stadium knows if Chelsea included a January recall clause in Abraham’s loan contract. If they did, they should resist any temptation to cash in on it. Bringing Abraham back to London in January would be detrimental to all parties.

The Nathan Ake situation from last season is not only an example of what could go wrong, it is almost a script of what would happen again. The worst case scenario for Tammy Abraham is that Chelsea bring him back to Stamford Bridge, Alvaro Morata remains injury free for the rest of the season and Abraham watches the second half of the season from the bench.

If the hypothetical release clause had an early expiration like Nathan Ake’s did, Chelsea could compound Abraham’s plight by still buying an experienced striker later in January. In fact, they would almost need to unless they wanted to risk both their ambitions and their manager. Antonio Conte will not want to rely on a 20-year old to fill in for Alvaro Morata in the case of injury, or as a second striker in a 3-5-2. He wants his promising young prospect to be #3 on the depth chart, not #2.

If he or the club (since we know they are rarely aligned) brought Abraham back, it would be to replace Batshuayi as the last-ditch striker. It would not solve Conte’s desire for an experienced backup in the Fernando Llorente model.

On the other side of the equation, recalling Tammy Abraham would devastate Swansea City. Bournemouth were significantly less effective without Nathan Ake last spring. Abraham leads the Swans with five goals in all competitions. He will be a major factor in their effort to avoid relegation and to launch Paul Clement’s plans to restore the team.

Swansea City’s fortunes are hardly Chelsea’s concern. However, Chelsea should not burn a bridge with a club that could become a productive loan destination. Chelsea have two strong, familiar allies on Swansea’s coaching staff in Paul Clement and Claude Makelele. Both men respect Chelsea and see the value of a relationship.

Pulling the rug out from under the Swans could fracture that relationship. It would reverberate around the Premier League, as the Blues show for the second consecutive season that they will exploit any loophole they can create. No team would take the risk of becoming the next Bournemouth or Swansea. The recall clause could be a deal-breaker for future loans.

After many seasons of scattering players across the lower tiers of English football and miscellaneous teams around Europe, Chelsea finally placed a solid number of their top prospects in Premier League loans. This is where the loan system is most valuable. Whatever long-term strategy Michael Emenalo and the development coaching staff implemented to reach the point where there are six young Blues on loan across the Premier League would be severely undermined by second breach of trust.

The potential upside – far from a guarantee – of recalling Tammy Abraham does not outweigh the risks of these consequences. Chelsea will need a new striker in January, but Tammy Abraham is not the one. If ever there was a time for January transfer business, 2018 is it.

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