Christian Pulisic is a very sensitive topic in the Chelsea fanbase. The American winger has always been subject to unnecessary abuse ever since it was announced that he would join Chelsea in the summer. Many believe that this transfer was nothing but a publicity stunt to gain fans in the United States, to increase merchandising and revenue. They believed that the 58 million pounds we spent on a 20 year-old, highly-rated youngster was a waste of money. The same player who at that tender age had vast experience of playing at the highest level, not only in the Bundesliga, but the Champions League as well. He was written off even before he kicked a single ball in Blue.
But, Pulisic was on a mission to prove these doubters wrong. Despite being on international duty for his country at the CONCACAF Cup and deserving an extended holiday, he cut it short to join up with the squad in Japan, Chelsea’s chosen destination for preseason under newly-appointed Frank Lampard. He showed a lot of promise in those games, scoring a brace against Salzburg and filling Chelsea fans’ hearts with renewed hope (a feeling that had been drained since the departure of Eden Hazard to Los Blancos).
The start of season did not go as expected, despite a few encouraging performances. Pulisic received the “tough-love” treatment from Frank Lampard, and was even dropped from the match-day squad altogether on a couple of occasions. This brought back doubt for the fans, and there was talk of him being loaned out again for his development as he didn’t seem to form a piece in the manager’s puzzle. Instead of being demotivated and struck-down, Pulisic took inspiration from this, and came back better than ever. While he always had an impact on games, he lacked end product. Yes, he did notch a few assists, but was yet to score.
This changed in the blink of an eye at Turf Moor. Christian Pulisic, who had not scored a single goal for Chelsea so far, scored a perfect hatrick against Burnley. He suddenly couldn’t stop scoring, grabbing his first goal at Stamford Bridge in a 2-0 win against Palace shortly after. Following this, he also scored his first goal in the Champions League for Chelsea in the 2-2 draw vs Valencia. The section of the fan-base which had supported him throughout were overjoyed, as their faith had finally been repaid. The American then got a string of games in the starting XI, and has been effective when he’s played. However, he has been struggling with injuries recently. A ray of hope- he expects to be back on the field soon. So far, he has contributed to 6 goals and 6 assists this season.
However, the main reason we have missed Pulisic over the past few games is not because of his goal involvement, but rather his ability to create spaces and exploit the opposition defence. Whenever he plays, he’s like a magnet; every time he gets the ball he attracts 2 or 3 opposition defenders, freeing up space for the other players to make a run and engage in a productive activity. When given space, he can get a shot away, or set someone up with a golden opportunity. His best attribute, though, is his ability to always be on his feet. If we observe him at any point during the game, we notice that he is always on the shoulder of the last defender, waiting for that through ball to send him through into space. This style of play complements Jorginho and Kovacic, who have the ability to pick him out. These attributes make him a very useful asset, especially when facing defensive teams. The home game against Newcastle exemplifies this, although he was a substitute, he created many opportunities upon his introduction and injected the much required high intensity and energy.
This is what we have been missing in the past few games, along with the obvious issue of finishing. Moving the ball sideways instead of playing it upfield is easier said than done, the players in possession can only pass the ball when the attacking players make a run to get themselves free from their marker. A player like Pulisic would have massively benefited us in the past few games, even if it is just as a substitute should Hudson-Odoi start. Not crying over spilled milk, we should now look forward to a tough month where we face several top teams, and the return of Pulisic should definitely serve as a massive boost.