Chelsea forward Christian Pulisic has made history as the first American to grace and win a Champions League final, while a role as a talismanic captain has been taken on with the USMNT, but there is still room for improvement from the 23-year-old as he looks to go from being very good to great.
That processes started when taking the brave decision to leave his homeland for German giants Borussia Dortmund as a 16-year-old in February 2015, with a meteoric rise to prominence enjoyed from that point.
A big-money transfer took him to Stamford Bridge in the summer of 2019, with over 100 appearances now taken in for Premier League heavyweights, but Pulisic is far from being the finished article as he seeks to nail down a regular role for the Blues and force his way into an elite group of talent at the top of a global game.
How can Pulisic raise his game?
That question was put by GOAL to Jay DeMerit – who was speaking on behalf of Stake.com, the leading cryptocurrency betting platform worldwide and Watford FC's principal partner – with the former United States international defender saying: “I think part of it isn’t his fault – he’s been playing in different positions because he can play all across midfield and even up front.
"He becomes almost more of a utility man where he can fill in, whereas if he is defined like ‘I am a centre midfielder and this is where I play’, sometimes that can breed a bigger and higher quality of consistency.
“Part of it is out of his control because he hasn’t been able to play in a consistent position because he has been played inconsistently out of position. That’s part of his conundrum.
“But then the other side of that is just opportunity. When he has got his opportunities, he has hit them – he has scored big goals when it matters, he is definitely the leader of the US national team.
"His consistency in those performances can only get better and if he starts doing that, maybe he will bring a little bit more confidence back to Chelsea to continue playing and becoming more of a leader in that squad, which I believe will be his goal.
“A lot of it has been inconsistency in where he plays, how he plays and then whether he starts or not. That’s breeding the inconsistency of who he is on the field of play every time. Just his ability to find a bit more consistency in that will now transfer to him becoming more of a consistent player in the Premier League.”
Where can Pulisic improve?
Pulisic has registered 23 goals across 105 outings for Chelsea – with there a Premier League hat-trick on his roll of honour – but he has only broken into double figures across a single campaign on one occasion in his career to date (2019-20).
He has also contributed 14 assists to a collective cause during his time in England, but once again there is a feeling that he could contribute more in the final third given his undoubted ability.
Pressed on whether Pulisic needs greater end product when being compared to the best left-sided attackers in the world, DeMerit said: “I think so. His ability to create can get a little bit better. His ability to score big goals when it matters, he is proven – he comes off the bench and scores a goal. When he plays on his favoured left, he runs at people and creates chances.
“A lot of the inconsistency comes from playing time – is he starting, is he not? That can mess with the mental health of somebody and their confidence. Towards the beginning of the season he stated that he was struggling with that.Getty
“Where he found that inconsistency was on the ball, whether he is playing, which position is he starting in – because he didn’t know. That’s credit to [Thomas] Tuchel for creating a great squad that he doesn’t need guys to start every week in different positions, and in different competitions. Chelsea has always had great competition in the last few years, so that has been a factor.
“Then, like any player, if he goes and scores two goals in two games or three goals in three games, then all of a sudden he is a different player. [Romelu] Lukaku is a great example of that. When he was scoring nine in a row two years ago everyone was calling him the best player in the world, now he is inconsistent because he is getting inconsistencies on the field.
“It’s the same for all players. I do see that with Pulisic and all it takes is one or two good games in a row and all of a sudden he is doing that for the rest of the season and winning the Champions League again. All of that is super plausible and he is the type of player that has the drive and confidence when he gets that opportunity to take it.”
Is Pulisic in the right place?
When being shifted around Tuchel’s system at Chelsea, with central striking and right wing-back berths filled this season, questions were asked of whether Pulisic had a role to play in the long-term plans being drawn up in west London.
There were also suggestions that he may be tempted to make another move elsewhere, with Liverpool credited with interest as they face the threat of being unable to tie Mohamed Salah and Sadio Mane to contract extensions beyond 2023.
Quizzed on whether Chelsea is the right club, and Tuchel the right manager for Pulisic, DeMerit – who graced World Cup and Copa America squads with the USA in his playing days – said: “It’s just about that relationship between manager and player that says ‘where do you want me play, are you bringing me in because I’m a utility guy and you want me to do what I did at Chelsea?’
“Or is it then a case of Mane is leaving and this is the guy and he’s going to play on the left this season consistently? Then he might go ‘that might be an opportunity because that’s where I want to be’. That’s usually a relationship between the manager and player.”
Pulisic, who is chasing down more major honours with Chelsea in 2021-22, is currently in the process of trying to help the United States secure their place at this year’s World Cup finals, with Gregg Berhalter’s team potentially one positive result away from booking tickets to Qatar.