Christian Pulisic enjoyed a breakout year for Chelsea and despite new names joining the club he should be rewarded with a starting spot.
In his debut season, young American phenomenon Christian Pulisic had a mixed bag of results under Frank Lampard at the start of the year. Pulisic went through the struggles synonymous with any emerging Premier League talent and accordingly spent his time on the bench.
As the season progressed, Pulisic was quick to start justifying Chelsea’s £58 million transfer fee spent on him in 2019. Darting runs, a speed turn that left the flailing of opposing defenders and a coolness in front of the goal all added to impressive performances that regularly flow from the American star.
Now Pulisic is facing a bit of a conundrum. Chelsea has spent a lot of money — around £200m — on new faces to strengthen the starting XI. Almost all of these additions attack players, with Timo Werner, Hakim Ziyech and now Kai Havertz all having to be a part of the fold. While Chelsea spent a pretty penny on Pulisic, reason would suggest you don’t spend nearly £ 200 million on players sitting on the bench, either. Where does that leave Pulisic, if Ziyech, Havertz and Werner all make the XI?
It would then seem that it is obvious that, when fit, Pulisic must have a starting role. But just to assume that would be to ignore the apparent elephant in the room: a certain Mason Mount. Could not be a player in Chelsea blue right now that Lampard trusts and wants more than Mount in his team. The gaffer showed that, throughout the season, Mount was established as a cornerstone in its Chelsea line-up. So much so that Mount was shifted to either the left or the right wing at times just so that he could get onto the pitch.
When he plays on either flank Mount is far less impactful compared to how he plays through the middle. But with Ziyech ‘s arrival to the right wing, and now Havertz down the middle, that only leaves the left wing up for grabs. Another complicating issue for Pulisic is that Havertz sometimes played striker during his career, and Timo Werner performed very well as left winger, or at least left striker.
Of course choosing between Mount, Pulisic and Werner is an issue that any manager would envy. The question remains, will the loyalty of Lampard to keep Mount in the starting line-up cost Pulisic a spot he made his own throughout the season 2019/20? In addition, will that make Chelsea as a whole weaker as Mount doesn’t play the wing as well as Pulisic does?
Pulisic has shown that at the Premier League level, he is more than capable of producing, and consistently doing so. Supporters of his will say he has what it takes to hold down his place in the starting XI and Lampard has shown he’s more than willing to drop players based on how they train or play. But Lampard also loves the energy and willingness that Mount brings to run and commit. Even though the Englishman is off his game, Lampard has stuck with the youngster and has paid dividends for the team more often than not.
Pulisic has the opportunity to make his own the spot on the left wing but he will need to find the gear that made him so electric last season and quickly find it. The American is certainly someone who can become a core component of this year’s fearsome attacking line-up for Chelsea. Maybe it’s this added adversity, this extra layer of competition, that will make Pulisic start turning out the glimpses of Eden Hazard-esque play that fans were welcomed to in 2019/20 every week.
If that is the case, Chelsea will not only boast an attacking foursome dangerous enough to shake all of Europe’s defenders, but if you thought last season Pulisic was a fearsome opponent, it could be his best year to date. What is abundantly clear is that the American star is the best yet to come.