When Eden Hazard left his glittering Chelsea career at the door in favour of a dream move to Real Madrid, many Blues fans were left to ponder how they were going to fill shoes of such quality. When the name Christian Pulisic was dangled above their heads, some would argue they had found his replacement.
The young American joined Chelsea for £57.6m in January 2019 from German giants Borussia Dortmund where he had broken into the first team at the age of 17 – the third youngest player to play for the club. He came from humble beginnings in Hershey, Pennsylvania and had to grow up quickly when he moved abroad to chase his footballing dreams.
Undoubtedly, he made an impression at Dortmund and managed 15 goals in 144 games during his time there, before capturing the attention of the Chelsea hierarchy and securing a move under Maurizio Sarri’s tenure. Frank Lampard inherited the 20-year-old last summer, whose move was completed before the club were struck with the transfer ban that has since been served.
Pulisic was labelled Hazard’s replacement and with a hefty price tag over the youngster’s head, there was pressure for him to hit the ground running.
Lampard’s first game in charge of Chelsea saw them fall to a 4-0 defeat at Manchester United on the opening day of the season – a match where Pulisic made his debut from the bench. He would take time to adapt to a new league and his new surroundings – but he had done the whole ‘fresh start’ thing once before.
It was on a chilly night in Burnley that Pulisic finally announced himself on the Premier League stage. He scored the perfect hat-trick which helped the Blues to a 4-2 victory at Turf Moor in October. This was the first time we had seen glimpses of the quality he possesses.
The Statesman has seven goals and two assists to his name from 19 league appearances for the Blues this season. Lampard has led the youth revolution that has exceeded expectations and always insisted that Pulisic had the ability to establish himself in the team.
It was only a matter of time before he settled down and found his feet at Stamford Bridge. This process was starting to gather momentum before football was suspended amid the coronavirus pandemic and since the restart, Pulisic seems to have picked up from where he left off much to the delight of Lampard and the Blues faithful.
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Despite three consecutive victories after the restart, Chelsea suffered their first setback with a lacklustre performance which culminated in defeat to struggling West Ham United on Wednesday evening. Pulisic and Willian were the brightest sparks on the night and the American has hit the ground running since football’s resumption with two goals in four games. He is finding his mojo at the right time as competition for places begins to heat up.
The arrivals of Hakim Ziyech and Timo Werner from Ajax and RB Leipzig respectively are huge statements of intent from Lampard. They showed defensive frailty against West Ham which reinforced the fact they need to drastically improve in this area.
For the remainder of the season, Lampard will gain a better understanding of who will make the cut for next season and who will be shown the door. Pulisic has undoubtedly propelled himself towards being one of the first names on the team sheet. He is taking responsibility and showing heightened maturity for his youth. He has stepped up and is re-paying the faith Lampard has shown in him, becoming a crucial part of the jigsaw as Chelsea grapple to secure Champions League football for next season.
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Would you ‘stick’ with Christian Pulisic or would you ‘twist’ in favour of an alternative, and if so, who would you choose and why?