It’s been about two and a half years since Christian Pulisic signed for Chelsea in a big 58 million pound move and he’s about to enter his third season playing for Chelsea at the age of 23. However, its safe to say that his time at the club has been quite back and forth. It was about two years ago when he scored THAT hattrick against Burnley, which was the first real glimpse of his potential in a Chelsea shirt and about eight months after that, he announced himself, quite remarkably, to English football with his stellar form for the two months of football after lockdown in the 19/20 season. However, in between those phases and since his incredible end to the 19/20 season, his time at the club has been riddled with injuries, inconsistency and all in all lackluster performances where he really hasn’t displayed or performed nearly as well, as he has shown he can in glimpses.
Its important to understand how we got to this point. To demand a price tag of 58 million pounds at the age of 20 meant that he was incredibly highly rated by a number of clubs in the world. The major criticism then which has bled into his criticisms today is that, even though his potential could definitely be seen, his output didn’t standout among other forward players in his age group. Even the season after he left Dortmund, Jadon Sancho taking over his place and, by far, producing and performing better at the same age was definitely not a good look for him. But in his first season at Chelsea, there were definitely a number of bright spots and bright performances that made a number of fans believe that he could become a very special player for the club. At the time, he offered a different profile in the Chelsea squad than what we had with the likes of Willian, Pedro, Hudson-Odoi and so on. He was incredibly sharp, had great close control dribbling and an incredible burst of pace to get past his man on the ball, making him a very exciting player to watch and prospect at the club. Over time in the season, it was clear that Frank Lampard had also put an emphasis on him improving his off-ball movement to develop into a dangerous and complete inside forward. Though inconsistent, his performances on the pitch in the 19/20 season were gradually getting better and better and he left fans a lot to be excited about. However, he could never string together a consistent run of games as he was constantly plagued by a number of muscle injuries, a patter we would see continuing for a while…
The FA Cup Final of the 19/20 season in July, might have been the tipping point in terms of the fanbase’s view on his injuries. After an incredible two months where he pushed the team into the top 4 with his performances, he would go down again in the final due to a hamstring injury that looked pretty bad and was reported to take atleast 5 weeks to recover from. He would come back after it but the next season he had major competition in those forward positions with the arrival of Timo Werner, Kai Havertz and Hakim Ziyech. His performances to start the 20/21 season were nothing short of awful and it never truly got too much better. Even with the arrival of Tuchel halfway through the season, most of his roles in games were reserved to mediocre stints off the bench. Of course, there were glimpses of his talent with standout performances against Porto away and Real Madrid at home in the Champions League, both performances being pivotal for Chelsea to eventually lift the trophy. But most of his minutes were still marked by awful decision making and mediocre showings and he could never really break into that front three with Mason Mount and Timo Werner being preferred to take the spot of the left forward in the starting line-up.
Objectively looking at his role and development as the squad currently stands, he has stalled, maybe even regressed when looking at it from a harsh standpoint, since his ‘purple patch’ at the end of the 19/20 season. For a player who’s entire profile emphasises output, he ended last season with a mere 6 G/A in the league in 27 appearances. Its pretty clear that a big part of the fanbase and the club have incredible faith, as shown in him being given the iconic Chelsea no. 10 jersey just after one full season at the club. However, patience is running thin and he can only be given the benefit of the doubt of being a ‘young player’ for so long. After two years at the club, where the entire time is marked by short glimpses of talent in large periods of mediocrity and injuries, it is time for him to start and provide tangible performances for consistent periods of time to really show the club and the fanbase to continue placing faith in his abilities and potential. I believe in his potential and in terms of talent and technical ability, I do not see many players in the squad who eclipse him. When he is at his best, he’s probably one of the best performers on the pitch, overlooking some clear flaws in his game. But, it is high time he starts to live upto the potential consistently and if not, with the number of forward options emerging at the club each season, it is very easy to see him getting overshadowed and eventually finding himself on the outside looking in at the end of next season when he’ll be 24 and entering into his prime. With a full pre-season after a great summer for him in the international stage, the 21/22 season is going to extremely pivotal for the future of his Chelsea career, a make or break season for him.