News Matches

Where is Captain America? Pulisic off the radar since Liverpool masterclass

7:30 PM IST 21/09/19
Christian Pulisic
There is clearly more to come from the winger but it hasn't quite been the start the former Dortmund man would have wanted at Stamford Bridge

Captain America is known for his agility, strength, speed and endurance, but it has been a slow start to the season for Christian Pulisic in his role as Frank Lampard's 'supersoldier'.

As in the Marvel Universe, the Premier League is serving up formidable foes for a man many believe has the potential to become the best player ever to come out of the United States.

Pulisic has just turned 21 but he has struggled to build on his best performance to date, in the 2-2 Super Cup draw with Liverpool that the Blues eventually lost on penalties.

Having joined the Blues for £58 million (€64m/$73m) from Borussia Dortmund this year, Pulisic is part of a group of promising youngsters looking to impress at Stamford Bridge this season. 

Pulisic has fit in well and stuck up friendships with the club's academy graduates, such as Tammy Abraham, Mason Mount and Fikayo Tomori. Unlike his English counterparts, however, he hasn't hit the ground running. 

The former Dortmund star has been an unused substitute in each of Chelsea's last two matches – despite returning early from international duty earlier in the month.

Mount's form has been a key problem for the American, with the new England midfielder having created more chances than any other Chelsea player so far this season (11).

He is also their second top-scorer behind in-form striker Tammy Abraham with three goals and is hopeful of retaining his starting berth against Liverpool on Sunday despite picking up an injury midweek against Valencia. 

In addition, the competition in the wide areas is perhaps fiercer than anywhere else in the squad, with Pulisic competing for minutes with Willian and Pedro. Callum Hudson-Odoi's imminent return to first-team duty will only complicate matters more for Pulisic.

Still, even though Pedro got the nod ahead of Pulisic for the midweek Champions League meeting with Valencia, Lampard is adamant that the 21-year-old's time will come.

"He is in our plans but we have got a big squad and a lot of wingers to choose from," the Blues boss said after the 1-0 loss at Stamford Bridge. "With Pedro’s experience in the Champions League, that was the decision to make, but Christian is part of our plans."

Even so, Lampard's words of reassurance will do little to calm fears that Pulisic is in for another season under the radar. In 2018-19, he started 17 of Dortmund's 45 games in all competitions and he has completed 90 minutes just once since arriving in west London.

In that context, Hudson-Odoi's return to full fitness is not good news for Pulisic.

Just like Jadon Sancho, who effectively made Pulisic surplus to requirements at Signal Iduna Park, Hudson-Odoi is a prodigious English talent and former Chelsea right-back Mario Melchiot believes that the 18-year-old is set for a big season.

"A good Hudson-Odoi would give me the most problems as a defender," the Dutchman told Goal. "If he can get back to where he was before the injury, I think he would be the most dangerous prospect Chelsea have.

"I like Hudson-Odoi. I was sad when he was injured, as it was at a crucial moment. The balance of the team was perfect. Hazard was on the left-hand side, drawing a lot of attention. Then, when Hudson-Odoi got the ball, he had a one-on-one.

"Pulisic will have to first to earn the attention of markers like Hazard did."

The move from Dortmund to Chelsea was always going to be a difficult step up in class for Pulisic, given Premier League football is played at a higher pace than in the Bundesliga. The pressure to perform is greater too, with the Blues always expected to win trophies.

Pulisic is a popular member of the dressing room, however, and he needs to remain patient while still pushing for more minutes. He has come to a place where he will develop and the rewards of making it at Chelsea could propel him to even greater heights.

He has controlled external factors well by being a positive influence behind the scenes and by purchasing a house in London to signify that he is here for the long-haul.

His potential is obvious and you can be sure that Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp, who briefly coached Pulisic at Dortmund, will be glad to see him on the bench once again on Sunday.

"He will be a proper player," the German said ahead of his side's trip to Stamford Bridge.

"Big talent, dynamic, pretty good with both feet. Super-exciting player. Good signing, I have to say."

As far as Pulisic's superhero story goes, it's clear these are only the opening credits. He still has plenty of time to become a blockbuster hit for the Blues.