Chelsea’s Defence Is a Shambles – But at the Other End Christian Pulisic Is Becoming a Star

Christian Pulisic
The 21-year-old Pulisic will only get better with more minutes | Michael Regan/Getty Images

Chelsea have not messed about. Wanting to make up for lost time (y’know, that transfer ban stuff) they’ve dipped their golden fingers into the market twice already with the big-money additions of Hakim Ziyech and Timo Werner.

Around 83 million pounds sterling worth, to be slightly more specific.

With those additions, the key question to emerge is just how Frank Lampard is going to squeeze them into his starting lineup without heavily disrupting the status quo.

Whatever way that happens, someone isn’t going to be best pleased. Yet one player who shouldn’t be ousted from this Chelsea side in favour of any new, or old, signings is Christian Pulisic.

It was anything but the smoothest welcome into the Premier League for the American, who either failed to make Lampard’s squad entirely or who was beset with injuries at the beginning of the campaign.

The odd appearance followed, but earning himself a regular berth proved to be a bit of a struggle. However, he’s kept fighting, continued banging on his manager’s door and when given the opportunity, has done his talking on the pitch.

Since the restart he’s scored twice in two Premier League outings, ensuring he kept his spot in the team following the win over Manchester City for the Blues’ trip to West Ham.

Christian PulisicChristian Pulisic
Pulisic scored a fine individual goal at home to Manchester City in their previous fixture | Visionhaus/Getty Images

Out in that wide left position is where he appears most comfortable, which shows in his performances. Having been experimentally thrusts into the middle and down the right, it’s on the left where his best qualities shine through.

Willing to get on his skates at every opportunity, he makes darting runs, dummy runs, inside runs, overlapping runs, underlapping runs, tracking runs….yeah, you get the picture.

With such tidy close control he can weave his way through the smallest of gaps, while his capabilities with either foot makes him tough to read in one-on-one situations. Just ask Issa Diop, who couldn’t deal with his pace and quick feet and clumsily brought him down for the penalty.

Given the experience he’s had already while still only 21 years of age, the space for growth in this Chelsea side is immeasurable. When the going got tough for Chelsea shortly after half time, if anyone was going to drag them back into the game then it was Pulisic – even if it didn’t materialise.

In and around the 18-yard box he was a menace, drifting away from his markers and pulling defenders out of position. In a nutshell, he was pretty darn good.

It shouldn’t come as a surprise given his exploits over in Germany, but it’s something else in Germany that could be cause for concern to Pulisic: Werner.

While a striker by trade, there are suggestions that Werner could be fielded on the left of the front three to accommodate Tammy Abraham as the centre forward. As you’ll have noticed, that means in place of Pulisic.

This should not be the case. Granted, Werner cost a hefty sum and will likely have been assured of a starting berth in order to join, but then play him down the middle. Lampard mustn’t sacrifice Pulisic in whichever setup he goes for, at least not on current form, and even more so to not risk stunting his progression.

The American will only get better – a frightening thought for opposition defences – and when you look at Chelsea’s showing against the Hammers, his teammates know that too. Struggling to match their attacking play with their defensive output, when knocking on the Hammers’ door it was Pulisic who the Blues players tried to get the ball to.

After that performance the issues are clearly (seriously, so clearly in defence), but Pulisic’s quality is clear, his teammates evidently are aware of that, so Lampard must be too.

But with money blurring his vision, he can’t lose sight of the present.

For more from Ross Kennerley, follow him on Twitter!


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