Christian Pulisic He recently stated that "no one even noticed me" on his first day with Chelsea platoon. When the Blues' summer transfer strategy begins to take shape, he can be forgiven for wondering if that is still the case.
O coronavirus pandemic has created uncertainty in the financial planning of many clubs, but Chelsea so far is taking a purposeful and proactive approach to its decision making.
Timo WernerThe imminent acquisition of the company was a smart opportunism after Liverpool hesitated to meet the RB Leipzig forward release clause. The subsequently swift deal on a five-year contract worth £ 200,000 a week is yet another sign of his resolute will to dispute the Premier League title.
Werner will join Hakim Ziyech, a £ 38 million signing from Ajax, but Chelsea are not finished yet. They are actively looking for another attacking player with Kai Havertz now the most likely candidate, how senior figures at Stamford Bridge act on the belief Borussia Dortmundis Jadon Sancho is intended for Manchester United. A loan switch to Barcelonais Philippe Coutinho remains possible, but Havertz is seven years younger and available for a similar permanent fee – around £ 75 million – a fact that United did not go unnoticed either, Bayern Munchen and Real Madrid.
There is no guarantee that Chelsea will be able to sign another attack target, but the mere fact that they are chasing multiple targets highlights Frank Lampard's dissatisfaction with his current options – a situation that could make Pulisic feel like the forgotten one again.
Lampard repeated a clear message in video sessions with Cobham's first team: move the ball quickly. The 41-year-old alternated between 4-3-3, 4-2-3-1 and 3-4-2-1 during his first season at Chelsea, but no matter how they line up, Lampard sees speed transition is vital to success. It is one of the main reasons why Tammy Abraham and Michy Batshuayi were preferred in the attack while Olivier Giroud it was made to wait forever for your chance; both players are more mobile, able to stretch their defenses by running behind and opening up more space for wings coming out of the flank.
For a long time, Lampard wanted an update on his favorite mold: a quick and incisive striker with sudden movements that would create almost as many opportunities for his teammates as for himself. He also needed a proven track record in front of the goal. Werner and Lyonis Moussa Dembele fit the profile, the first proving an easier deal to conclude.
And so, with Ziyech's arrival already confirmed, suddenly two of Lampard's preferred 4-3-3 attack positions appear to be occupied. In fact, Werner could even play on the left with Abraham in the middle. Pulisic already faces a fight to prove that he is part of Lampard's first choice team, even without Havertz, Sancho or Coutinho joining the club.
This competition for places is inevitable in a top cutlery club, but the impending overhaul completes a turbulent first season in England for Pulisic.
Last summer, the winger decided to interrupt his post-season vacation for just a week – despite representing the United States in the Golden Cup – in an effort to please Lampard. First contact with your new teammates – when boarding the bus Japan for a pre-season training session – came through bleary eyes and jet-lagged. Pulisic may have felt that "no one noticed me" in that overwhelming reception, but the players quickly warmed up to a soft-spoken but fiercely determined American, with obvious talent in abundance.
Remember that Pulisic hired a coach he never played for. Maurizio Sarri was fired in June and sources told ESPN that there was only a brief conversation between the Italian and his new £ 58m acquisition after his arrival in London. Pulisic was introduced before the Europa League final, at a time when Sarri already knew he would leave the club and therefore never manages the US international at Stamford Bridge.
Pulisic had to deal with the uncertainty of a new manager, still unidentified, and the immediate task of replacing the colossal presence of Eden Hazard, who was chosen for Real Madrid after seven years in West London. Settling in the English capital was easier than arriving in Dortmund at the age of 16. There was no language barrier to be overcome, but at a price exacerbated by Chelsea's inability to sign more contracts because of its ban on transfers by FIFA, expectations were high. start.
He trained in the pre-season, but concerns about fatigue and his robustness due to the intensity of the Premier League's actions led to a slow start. After a promising debut in the UEFA Super Cup loss to Liverpool, Pulisic participated in just three of the league's nine games at the club's opening and none between August 31 and October 26. Burnley were the victims of his suppressed frustration on a cold night at the Turf Moor, when he announced himself in English football with an excellent hat-trick.
"I felt like I had done well up to that point, but I really hadn't shown everything I could do, so in that game, I had a chip on my shoulder," recalled Pulisic later.
Lampard was unable to hide his joy after Chelsea's 4-2 victory. "He will be a great player for us," said the Chelsea coach. "He showed a lot of that today and now we're going to see him go."
Burnley's ride marked the first of 12 consecutive matches in three different competitions, when Pulisic hit a rich streak individually. However, Chelsea lost five times during that race when Lampard began to lament a cyclical problem: lack of insight in front of goal. It was not a failure placed just outside Pulisic, but Lampard regretted the waste of his attacking players so regularly that in February he described himself as a "broken record" on the subject.
This is the root of Lampard's desire to reinvent Chelsea's attack. With Willian and Peter almost certain to leave when his contracts expire at the end of the season, Lampard saw an opportunity to change guards. Werner is 24, Ziyech turned 27 in March. Abraão is 22 years old, Mason Mount – who played in the left wing and number 10 – is 21 years old, while Callum Hudson-Odoi is only 19 years old. At 21, Pulisic may be at the forefront of this new era, but his prominence in it is in greater doubt than it first appeared.
Much will depend on Lampard's preferred system in the future. Lampard opted for 4-3-3 in 15 of Chelsea's 29 Premier League games this season. The search for Havertz suggests a greater use of the number 10 and the 4-2-3-1 format in the future. Pulisic can play there or outside the flank.
"I love playing in the left wing and also in that 10 place, essentially behind the striker," he said. "I would say these are my two favorite positions."
However, instead of forming a team with Pulisic in the same way that Chelsea replaced the player – Hazard – Lampard is interested in greater versatility and interchangeability of positions to make his team much less predictable than the irritating defeats at home suggested. Werner's ability to play on the left is a useful feature in this regard, also allowing Lampard to accommodate him and Abraham, if he so wishes.
An intriguing subplot in the coming weeks – and potentially months – is Abraham's ongoing contract negotiations. He still has two years left on his remaining contract, but after having enjoyed an innovative season like Chelsea's No. 9, he will understandably seek guarantees about his future role after signing Werner, who was convinced to join Chelsea. partially based on what it would be. a first-team regular.
Pulisic does not have these contractual concerns to leverage any unhappiness. Instead, he simply has to deliver on his undeniable potential, becoming the "big, big player" that Lampard predicted earlier.