Christian Pulisic has 10 games to save Chelsea career amid Todd Boehly hope
Four years since signing and 139 games later, Christian Pulisic’s Chelsea career might have just ten matches left to run. As the American prepares to return to the club for what might be the final time, a last chance to salvage a future at Stamford Bridge awaits him.
After starting twice and captaining his country to two more victories, a 7-1 win over Grenada followed by a 1-0 victory against El Salvador to clinch top spot in their CONCACAF Nations League group, Pulisic journeys back to London knowing the challenge ahead of him.
Since joining Chelsea the USMNT star has scored 14 goals for his country in 35 games. He has captained 13 of them and assisted nine in the same time. Compare that to his record in league football for the Blues. In 92 Premier League games he has scored just 20 goals and assisted 11.
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The goals and assists per game in that period at international level is 0.65 compared to 0.33 for his club. The standard of league football is tougher, naturally, but for Pulisic the difference has always been bigger than most. For USA he is nearly twice as effective. Only during one spell at SW6 has he had that same importance of being irreplaceable.
The now long-gone lockdown period is nearly three years in the past. Outside of the nine-game spell where he scored or assisted in eight games, recording four of each, his record in London reads as 16 goals and seven assists in 81 games, 0.28 contributions per game.
He is far from the only underperforming forward to have played in that time. Timo Werner, Callum Hudson-Odoi, Hakim Ziyech, Romelu Lukaku and largely Kai Havertz have all struggled. The team in that time have scraped to a top four finish three times and now look set to be mid-table here as well.
For Pulisic though it appears his time is up. With his contract expiring in 2024, Todd Boehly and Co have already made their stances on running down deals very clear with Mason Mount. Pulisic and Mateo Kovacic will be no different. The American will either have to find a new club this summer or sign a new deal that as of yet isn’t on the table.
Unless he can find a way to reignite the previous levels and propel himself not just in the short-term thinking of Graham Potter than the 24-year-old faces a move away. With Raheem Sterling, Mykhailo Mudryk, Joao Felix and Noni Madueke all joining since last year and Christopher Nkunku on his way at the end of this season the American is arguably sixth choice heading into next campaign at this current stage.
With that sort of competition and the general reset desired by Boehly, Potter and the fans, Pulisic is stuck in limbo. On the face of it he should fit the new rebuild. An exciting attacking player based on instinct, flair and pace with an innovative manager and young teammates around him. It’s not too far from the USMNT setup but come the summer it will be four-and-a-half years since a deal was announced with Borussia Dortmund for him to leave.
Maurizio Sarri, then manager, claimed to not have known about it. The way Pulisic came in and the way he looks set to leave may not even be all that disimilar. In a cloud of other things going on, wholesale changes and without anyone quite sure what to expect next.
Under Boehly-Clearlake there was a simplistic hope – much like his Thomas Tuchel reunion – that Pulisic could become the posterboy for Chelsea and spark the US-Chelsea commerical brand-building. That is going to end before it truly started.
The player said last summer that he was ready and on-board with the direction of travel, that hasn’t necessarily changed but everything else has and now he isn’t likely to be part of the journey. “At the end of the season, we were able to meet with them and they were around the club a lot,” Pulisic said on the pre-season tour of the States. “They are really good people so I’m excited moving forward.”
The club and the player will be moving forward, but the longer time goes on the more it seems it will be in opposite directions.
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