Bringing another striker to Chelsea to compete with Tammy Abraham has been on Frank Lampard’s wish list since January, but I’m wondering if that player could already be at the club. Christian Pulisic has been a success at the club so far and he‘s shown potential to become an output machine in the future. In my opinion, playing centrally could be a great way to unlock some of this potential. I don’t think he should play all of his minutes through the middle, because he is still a strong option on the wing but as a striker, I think there is a lot about him that could make him a very good, and very different alternative to Tammy Abraham.
The first part of his game, and maybe the most important, that allows him to make this move to striker is his movement in the box. His non penalty expected goals value of 0.43 per 90 is more than the likes of Jamie Vardy and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang [stats courtesy of Fbref] and reflects what can be seen in game, which is his excellent movement in and around the box, very reminiscent of a striker.
Below you can see his goal against Watford, the timing and angle of the run were perfect, and the instinct to look across and find the space is very striker-esque, serving as proof that he could thrive in a more central role.
Pulisic doesn’t just have great movement in the box, he also makes good runs in behind, noted by Lampard when asked about the potential of playing Pulisic as a striker, saying, “He’s got an ability to run behind the line and to be sharp in central areas, which will naturally get him more goals”. This ability to get in behind a defence would make him an incredibly dangerous striker, especially on the counterattack. Pulisic is also a very decent finisher, with WhoScored declaring it a statistical strength of his, and this is obviously key for a striker scoring regularly.
A unique trait of Pulisic’s which gives credence to the idea of him using him centrally is the way that defenders gravitate towards him, which can be seen below with his assist for Michy Batshuayi against Southampton and for Olivier Giroud in the Super Cup against Liverpool.
In the above photos we can see Pulisic takes everyone’s attention, which creates space both in behind and out wide for other players to attack. If Pulisic was to be playing as a striker he would still have this magnetic effect on defenders, which would consequently create a lot of space out wide and in behind for our wingers or someone like a Mason Mount running beyond him. Pulisic, as shown, also has the composure and the ability to play these guys in behind, and his ability to take the ball on the turn would make him very dangerous when slipping in behind that final ball to players running in behind the defence.
Pulisic can use this magnet-like trait to play almost like Firmino does for Liverpool at times, dropping deep and pulling men towards him before turning and playing a ball in behind would be very dangerous, bringing him a lot of assists and our wingers a lot of goals. Pulisic’s dribbling ability would also be valuable when dropping deeper. A striker who can dribble to a high level is a very dangerous asset, because a lot of centre backs are vulnerable when ran at. One on one dribbling is also one of the best ways to disorganise a defence and having a striker able to do this means that you can disorganise and cause danger right at the heart of a team’s defence.
To conclude, playing Pulisic as a striker can help to bring a different dimension to our attack. He’d obviously be a very different option to Tammy Abraham which is perfect for rotation, but I think he could do very well as a striker. His movement in the box is very good, and as a 21-year-old it’s only going to get better, as well as his runs in behind. The way defenders gravitate towards him would create space for wide players to run into, and Pulisic has the temperament and technique to execute good balls in behind. The added bonus of his dribbling gives him a one on one edge over defenders and would help to disorganise defences as well. Using Pulisic as a striker saves us a lot of money in the transfer market, and potentially makes room in the squad for another marquee winger, I’ll let you imagine who that might be.
Featured image sourced from The Washington post