Tobi Promise analyses the colossal impact of Christian Pulisic on Frank Lampard in his limited playing time this season, and discusses his prospects for the next campaign.
Many Chelsea fans consider Christian Pulisic to be somewhat unlucky as to the number of games he has started this season – especially compared to his competitors for starting positions. We are referring to a player who came in wanting to replicate Hazard’s form – yet Frank Lampard has preferred the attributes of other individuals – including adaptation and consistency in first-team training.
Treated justly or otherwise, Pulisic has been climbing up the stage to prove himself to Lampard and our fanbase with the limited playing time he gets. To him, it’s like preaching a message continually until the hearer embraces it, for most times he comes in – fans sense impact, sudden impact! One can feasibly comprehend his passion whenever he put the ball past the goalkeeper from his energetic punch-the-air celebrations, apparently it’s all about proving his worth.
What changes does he bring? When the fourth official holds up the minute board displaying number 22 – especially in a dead Chelsea outing – I anticipate three turnarounds: creativity, a change the game’s pace and and a goal poaching threat. In situations of uneven attacking plays such as midfielders forcing the ball into expansive areas, he comes in to run at defenders with the ball at his feet and in turn unsettle the opposition defence setting the play for his teammates.
He is usually impactful with the creative scent in his game; aside from driving forward he also draws opposition defenders out of key spaces by positioning to receive the ball in tight deep areas. He is definitely a gem to have against low blocks – which is a tactic most smaller teams adopt in the Premier League.
But to assume from Lampard’s perspective, his less involvement could be justified as every other winger at the club also contributes to the team and its system in vital areas. For instance, the creativity and pace Willian offer in RW is an established attribute to how Lampard wants his team to play. But is Pulisic not offering more? Systematically let’s compare him with our other wingers in terms of attributes.
In my opinion, I will categorise what Lampard wants from his wingers into three attributes:
- First – Lampard values the yard of pace needed to transition quickly to attack.
- Second – Creativity is key. Lampard has been quoted several times saying he did not want his chance creation from only crosses but also from the midfielders and wingers.
- Third – goalscoring; every top team requires goalscoring wide players!
It is interesting to analyse how our existing wingers fulfil these criteria:
- Pedro: Pace = great, Creativity = average, Goalscoring = nah!
- Willian: Pace = great, Creativity = good, Goalscoring = liability to crosses so nah!.
- Hudson-Odoi: Pace = very great, Creativity = average, Goalscoring = he misses a lot so nah!
The role of Christian Pulisic becomes even clearer when we compare his output to our incoming frontmen Timo Werner and Hakim Ziyech;
- Werner: Pace = extremely great, Creativity = nah!, Goalscoring = great.
- Ziyech: Pace = bad!, Creativity = great, Goalscoring = great.
With regards to Pulisic, it is unwise to disagree that he has every quality in pace, creativity and goalscoring – it’s not a difficult thing to agree with, and one is safe to say he is our best system winger because he offers everything. He has the mental ability to decide when to meet a variety of crosses, albeit he is short – yet his high jump and smartness makes him a suitable player in aerial situations in spite of this. It is obvious Pulisic is proving to be our best winger, and potentially our best forward.
When a player is endowed with these qualities, it should not be a surprise when he comes on and makes a speedy impact. His message to everyone is loud and clear, but the bottom line is whether Pulisic gets his minutes now or later, he is still going to be a big player for us – especially in the current system.
Cover Image Edit: @khanna_zubin