Premier League

Christian Pulisic is emerging as Chelsea's most important attacker

The American suffered a slow start at Stamford Bridge, but is now invaluable to Frank Lampard before new arrivals come

7:00am on Saturday 11th July 2020
Cameron Smith | Chelsea Analyst

When the announcement of Christian Pulisic’s impending move to Chelsea surfaced in January 2019, excited chatter spread amongst Blues fans, but his £58m price tag was seen as hefty by most.

In his last year at Dortmund, Pulisic wasn’t first choice, seeing his spot on the right wing taken by the emerging Jadon Sancho, and he amassed a limited 924 minutes of Bundesliga football.

Furthermore, whilst his underlying offensive numbers, in particular his dribbling ability, were promising, in four Bundesliga seasons, Pulisic scored just 13 goals, suggesting Chelsea overpaid to acquire his services.

However, this season Pulisic has exploded onto the scene with some scintillating performances for the Blues, and while his injuries remain a frustrating side-effect when he gets a run in the side, he is certainly staking his claim for a place in the team

Pulisic in 2019/20

Injury issues and simply being out of favour at the start of the season has meant Pulisic has made only 13 starts in the Premier League, but with seven goals and two assists he is contributing to a goal every 133 minutes in the league, a better rate than both Raheem Sterling (every 170 minutes), and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang (every 143 minutes).

Pulisic’s seven league goals is behind only Tammy Abraham (13) in the Chelsea squad, and is in fact the most scored by a player aged 21 or under in the Premier League this season.

The American’s xG + xA P90 tally of 0.73 is incredibly impressive for someone of his age in their first season in the Premier League. It’s a better total than Anthony Martial’s 0.65 P90 and is exactly equal to Sadio Mane’s.

Furthermore, his 0.52 non-penalty goals P90 is only 0.02 behind Mohamed Salah’s 0.54, who is seen as one of the league’s most dangerous attackers.

In addition, Pulisic’s underlying numbers are once again very promising; of players to play at least 1000 minutes, Pulisic’s 3.5 shots P90 ranks fourth in the Premier League, and using the same metric, his 3.1 completed dribbles P90 is the ninth highest in the league.

League performance 19/20

Comp Dribbles P903.
Crosses P9021.41.52.620.4
xG+xA P900.730.730.90.580.850.65
*League minutes only

One thing that could improve is his key passes; while 1.5 P90 is not a poor total by any means, it’s the same as N’Golo Kante this season, and if Pulisic wants to become an elite winger, it’s an area that could improve in his game.

Pulisic in Project Restart

Injured since New Years Day, Pulisic returned off the bench against Aston Villa in the first game since the restart and made an instant impact.

Despite only coming on in the 55th minute, Pulisic scored the equaliser, took three shots, had four touches in the box, and completely turned the game in Chelsea’s favour. Ruben Loftus-Cheek looked unsurprisingly leggy in his first game for 13 months, and it took just five minutes for Pulisic to get on the scoresheet.

Whilst Mason Mount was exceptional at Villa Park, it was Pulisic who turned the screw, and his place in the starting XI against Manchester City was totally justified thanks to his match-winning performance away to Villa.

In the City game, Pulisic was crucial yet again. He scored the opener, and offered a real threat in behind the City defence, constantly stretching them, and forcing Kyle Walker to sacrifice his attacking game to try and deal with the American.

He once again took three shots, completed four of his five attempted dribbles, and had eight touches in the box; a truly electric display against one of the world’s best sides.

Christian Pulisic
AM (LR) - Chelsea - 21 yrs
Jun 25, 2020
90Minutes played
3Total shots
3Shots on target
9Final third passes
7Touches in box
5Duels won

After the game, Lampard said: “I always planned to start him against Man City because I know what he can bring in these sort of games and he brought it. He did really well. He needs to keep working, he’s a young player but he’s got so much talent and he can get better and better."

Pulisic has the faith of Lampard, and with Callum Hudson-Odoi currently not yet match-fit, and both Willian and Pedro inconsistent performers often criticised by Chelsea fans, it’s likely to be Pulisic who drags the West London side to a top-four finish this campaign.

Deadly combination next season?

With the arrivals of Hakim Ziyech and Timo Werner next season, competition for places in the Chelsea attack will be intense, but Pulisic has done enough this season to suggest that he is in pole position for the role on the left.

Alongside Ziyech, Pulisic could thrive, as the Moroccan loves to play a deep cross to the back post, a run and finish that Pulisic demonstrated expertly against Aston Villa last week.

With Ziyech cutting inside from the right, Pulisic making the back-post run, and Werner running in-behind, Chelsea could rival Liverpool and Manchester City for the most dangerous attack in the league next term.

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