Why Christian Pulisic is Not the Answer for Chelsea


The name of United States international Christian Pulisic has regularly featured in the transfer headlines over the previous six months and Chelsea eventually sealed the deal for the 20-year-old, although he won’t be joining the club until the beginning of the 2019/20 season.

Chelsea are currently stationed in fourth place in the Premier League table in their inaugural season under their Italian manager Maurizio Sarri. Pulisic is undisputedly the best player of his generation from the United States, but the lucrative offer of £58 million seems rather excessive for such a young player, who has scored just 15 goals in his 115 club appearances as a professional.
In terms of technical ability and application, Pulisic will meet the required standards to play in the Premier League and for a club as prestigious as Chelsea. Yet, I can’t help thinking that Pulisic will provide very little improvement on the squad currently available to Sarri.
Eden Hazard, Willian and Pedro are the first team options who’re deployed as wingers and Bayern Munich target Callum Hudson-Odoi is also vying for a place in the starting line-up. Hudson-Odoi is one of the most promising young players in England, yet Sarri has spent £58 million on a 20-year-old from the United States!
The fact that Christian Pulisic is the best player from the United States isn’t an argument behind why Chelsea forked out so much money to bring him to the club. Instead, it underlines the lack of talent currently emerging from the youth ranks in the United States, rather than his extraordinary ability as a player.
Another worrying sign is that Pulisic has lost his regular starting place at Borussia Dortmund, after the emergence of fellow youngsters Jacob Bruun Larsen and England international Jadon Sancho. So if he’s unable to break into the first team with The Black and Yellows, then how is he supposed to gain a starting place at Chelsea with the likes of Eden Hazard, Pedro, Willian and Callum Hudson-Odoi for competition?

Stats Don’t Lie!

The 20-year-old winger has started just 11 games in all competitions for the Bundesliga leaders this season. Two of those appearance came in the DFB-Pokal and four in the UEFA Champions League. Also, six of his appearance in the Bundesliga have come from the bench and he’s currently experiencing his second-lowest scoring season at Borussia Dortmund with just three goals.
His more detailed statistics also make for difficult reading. One of the weaknesses of his game is that he gives the ball away to the opposition far too frequently. He’s averaged 2.3 unsuccessful touches and has been dispossessed 2.4 times per game in the Bundesliga this season, which could prove costly with the clubs’ who set-up to play on the counter-attack.
Still just 20-years-old, Chelsea mostly paid for the Hershey, Pennsylvania native’s potential rather than his end product. But if this transfer indicates the end of Hazard’s time at Stamford Bridge, the Blues will not have his American replacement ready to perform consistently at Premier League level for a few years, and he will probably never make it anywhere close to the Belgian’s level. Dominating games against Trinidad and Tobago or Jamaica in front of friendly crowds is one thing, but doing it in hostile atmospheres against well-established players who would do anything to come away with three points against one of England’s biggest teams is a whole different world.

The Verdict

Upon arriving at Chelsea, unless Hazard leaves, Pulisic will not see any more game time than he has seen with BVB this year. And if he does see game time, both Chelsea fans and American fans will put him under an immense amount of pressure. Plenty of high-profile transfers have failed for that exact reason. Just ask Martin Odegaard, Jonathan Woodgate, Andy Carroll, and Fernando Torres. And while some of those players, most notably Torres, had good track records before heading to their new clubs, Pulisic has not really done much in football except become the best player for a footballing country that would not matter at all if it did not have over 300 million people and the most ubiquitous media in the world.
Perhaps the most revealing thing about this whole process? The fact Liverpool did not make a harder push for the young winger. Had Klopp rated Pulisic as high as Chelsea evidently do, the Reds would have probably signed him despite their already loaded attack considering Klopp and the American worked together for a long time at BVB before the German coach landed in England. Additionally, Sarri did not even know about the transfer until the day the news broke.
The American prodigy certainly has stagnated this season, but that does not guarantee he will never find success at Chelsea. He finished fourth in the Bundesliga in dribbles per match in 2017/18 with 2.4, proving he can slice up a defence when he holds onto the ball well enough. In the same season, WhoScored rated him higher than experienced, highly-regarded players such as Kai Havertz, Jonas Hector, Franck Ribery, Corentin Tolisso, and Julian Brandt. Pulisic ended the season as BVB’s sixth-highest goalscorer in the league, but each of the players ahead of him in that column started at least ten fewer league games than Pulisic did.
Although the Bundesliga will challenge any player, it does not pose the physical and mental challenges of the Premier League. The average talent in the Premier League greatly exceeds that of the Bundesliga, so if Pulisic could not find his way into the first XI for one of Germany’s strongest clubs, he probably will not come near it at Chelsea unless their wingers leave en masse within the next two transfer windows. Pulisic looks average when he plays with great players at Dortmund, and he will probably face the same dilemma at Chelsea. And if he does not have an environment of patience to grow and develop in, he will follow in a long line of hyped-up prospects who failed at Stamford Bridge like Josh McEachran, Gael Kakuta, Nathaniel Chalobah, Tomas Kalas, and Lucas Piazon, just to name a few.

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