Two assists, one goal – our newest signing shone in the CONCACAF Gold Cup last night
Christian Pulisic gave Chelsea fans a glimpse of what to expect last night after shining for the USA in their 6-0 victory over Trinidad & Tobago in the CONCACAF Gold Cup.
The 20-year-old scored and created two assists in a performance that has been deemed as ‘unplayable’ by many, giving us hope that the £58m (€64m/$73m) signing from Borussia Dortmund is going to be a sound (& potentially shrewd) investment by the west London side.
The last time the USMNT faced T&T in a competitive match, where they surprisingly lost to the Trinidadians 2-1, a loss which confirmed that the Americans would not be able to qualify for last year’s FIFA World Cup in Russia.
Last night, you could say that the US got their revenge, with Pulisic at the forefront of that.
Pulisic was deployed as left-sided, attacking/central midfielder (LCM) in a 4-1-4-1 formation by Gregg Berhalter last night, although he does play as a more traditional LCM when the US play in a 4-3-3 system, which was on show in the 4-0 win over Guyana on Wednesday.
Pulisic’s first major contribution to the game was his assist for America’s first goal. After a free kick ricocheted off the wall, the ball worked it’s way back to him after he moved into a wider position on the pitch, cutting back inside on his stronger foot to put in a deftly-lofted cross into the penalty area, with centre-back Aaron Long getting his head onto it and head the ball into the far corner.
Despite taking the lead, the first-half was pretty subdued. Thankfully, that changed in the second-half as the USMNT exploded into life, with Pulisic being THE reason why.
Stretching the play, getting into dangerous positions, always on the ball to create key moments… Pulisic was almost playing like a man possessed. And his second-half contribution was rewarded with his second assist of the game.
Receiving the ball on the left-hand side, Pulisic went on a mazy dribble that saw him cut him into the middle, leaving two defenders in his wake due to his electric pace and laying the ball up perfectly for Gyasi Zardes on the edge of the penalty area – who then curled home a great strike into the top-right corner to effectively seal the win for the US.
With two assists to his name, it was now time for Pulisic to get himself onto the scoresheet. T&T lost the ball halfway in their own half, with Jordan Morris picking the ball up. As he continued to dribble his way into the final third, Morris managed to draw in four Trinidadian players, leaving a ton of space for Pulisic to receive the ball, show composure and effortless place the ball into the net.
33 key passes.
A Man of the Match performance.
A performance where Pulisic was definitely in the mood to make T&T pay for destroying his World Cup dreams. And judging by his post-match interview, Captain America did indeed serve justice.
WHERE WILL PULISIC BE USED FOR CHELSEA NEXT SEASON?
Whilst it is expected that Pulisic will predominantly line up on the right-hand side (RW) in the front three of a 4-3-3 system, Pulisic definitely has the flexibility to play in different positions and in different systems.
Don’t be surprised to see also him cutting in on the left-wing (LW), playing as a ‘false 9’ (F9) or in an attack-minded left central-midfielder (LCM) like he does for his national team.
As for formations, it’s most probably a given that – if being managed by Frank Lampard (which will happen) – we will see more flexibility from a formation perspective next season. 4-3-3 will be the go-to system, but don’t be surprised if you see the Blues utilise systems such as 4-2-3-1 (with a double-pivot DM), an attack-minded 4-1-4-1 or even the possibility of a diamond 4-4-2 (which could turn into a 4-2-2-2 even if the situation is needed).
With the number of different positions that Pulisic can play comfortably in, what should we expect from the American?
The first role for Pulisic and the most likely scenario for the American at the Blues would be to see him play on the right, the way that he has played for Dortmund.
Now that Hazard has left the club, the left-hand side of the front three would more than likely go to Willian – at least at the start of the season until Callum Hudson-Odoi returns from injury – with Pulisic competing with Pedro for the spot on the right.
Although after this coming season, expect both Willian and Pedro to depart, with Hudson-Odoi and Pulisic becoming the main wingers of the club for possibly the next decade (whilst competing with another two wingers for the two spots in the front three or two of the three spots behind the lone striker).
If played on the left, this would give the American the chance to cut in – like he does for the USMNT – and give a sense of influence and danger. By playing on the left, with the likes of Emerson and Ruben Loftus-Cheek, the possible partnerships on the left (where a lot of Chelsea’s attacking play has been dictated over the last few years), this could lead to something special.
By playing on the left, he would compete mainly with Hudson-Odoi, although both players mentioned can easily play on either wing as well the capability of playing through the middle too.
Speaking of through the middle… the current striker situation at Chelsea going forward this season will be interesting with Michy Batshuayi, Olivier Giroud and Tammy Abraham all having a genuine chance of making themselves the main striker.
And the situation could benefit Pulisic very much if Chelsea decides to play in other formations that are not 4-3-3 (4-2-3-1, 4-1-4-1, etc) as Pulisic has thrived playing in the number 10 role for the United States.
There is also the chance of it there being a false nine role in play, which Chelsea are not afraid to use as it was a system the Blues quite often last season due to the lack of goals from both Álvaro Morata and Gonzalo Higuaín (although Giroud notably performed very well as the main centre-forward in the UEFA Europa League).
As mentioned before, the expected flexibility in formations being used next season could benefit Pulisic greatly.
Possible Scenarios… (Right – middle – left)
• If played on the right – Pulisic – Batshuayi – Hudson-Odoi
• If played on the left – Pedro – Batshuayi – Pulisic
• If played through the middle – Pulisic & Hudson-Odoi (with Willian in the ‘no.10’ role behind)
Most likely? Expect Pulisic to play the majority of his time at Chelsea on the right (especially in a 4-3-3), although don’t be surprised to see him pop up on the left as his performances on international duty clearly show he can perform on that side.
Pulisic is a versatile player who can play in a multitude of attacking positions, which is almost a given now for the modern day footballer.
A hybrid of dribbling with pace on the wings and showing creatively in confined spaces in a more centralised position, Pulisic is definitely someone who is extremely comfortable with the ball at his feet.
Creative, direct, risk-free style, hard to get the ball off… Pulisic does share attributes with a certain Belgian that has unfortunately departed for pastures new in Madrid.
Is Pulisic the finished product? No. But two things that work in his favour is that he has a very high ceiling in terms of potential and plus he also has time on his side to fine-tune his talent and become one of the best in Europe.
Yes, it was only Trinidad & Tobago. But what we saw last night was a display from the 20-year-old that does give Blues fans hope he could one day replace Eden Hazard.
With this said, I feel it would be unfair on Pulisic to be seen as just as a replacement as one, Hazard will never be replaced as he is irreplaceable and two, I would rather see the finished article of Christian Pulisic than a 2.0 version of Hazard that would be set up to fail, unfortunately.
Capable of playing on the wing or in a central position, the American youngster seems to have the talent to master the Premier League and potentially Europe if his manager can use him to the best of his ability.
If that happens, Chelsea will absolutely have their very next superstar for the present and the future.
The ‘Hazard era’ is over and the Blues are going to find a way to not rely on the Belgian to provide the magic for them like he did on countless occasions during his seven-year stay in SW6.
With this said, this is (hopefully) the perfect time for the ‘youth era’/’next generation era’ at Stamford Bridge. With the likes of Hudson-Odoi, Ruben Loftus-Cheek and Andreas Christensen already a part of that, Pulisic could very well be the face of that era if it works out well for him.
It appears that the hype for our newest addition has been a slow-burner since he officially joined back in January.
But with the positive propaganda starting to show for Pulisic, hopefully the respect for Pulassist is starting to come…