When Christian Pulisic arrived at Chelsea in the summer of 2019 it was met with a mixed reaction from the Chelsea supporters. He was signed for $73 million from German club Borussia Dortmund, a record for an American player, but it was a club signing rather than a managerial choice from then manager, Maurizio Sarri, who publicly stated "The club asked my opinion about one month ago. My opinion was positive, and today I knew I have known that the deal is done, but I didn't know anything."
Pundits in the United States question whether the move would be positive for the young midfielder given the competition for starting positions at Chelsea and the eventual coaching change when Frank Lampard took over the club at the beginning of the 2019-2020 EPL season. Many in the US felt it was important that Pulisic get meaningful first-team minutes given that he is the centerpiece of the US men's national team.
Pulisic’s Chelsea career started with a slow substitute appearance in an opening day defeat against Manchester United. He would later make his first start against Liverpool in the UEFA Super Cup Final in Istanbul, assisting on an Olivier Giroud goal and having a goal called off for offsides in the defeat.
Despite the loss, it was a promising performance, but three subpar starts followed before he found himself on the bench. It wasn’t until he played a major role in substitute appearances against Newcastle and Ajax after the international break in October that Chelsea fans started seeing the potential the American midfielder had.
Then Pulisic announced his arrival to English Football by becoming the second American to score a hat-trick in a 4-2 win against Burnley. The hat-trick was met with high praise from his manager Frank Lampard and much relief in the United States as Pulisic finally seemed to find his footing in the Premier League.
After a period of contribution for Chelsea, which saw Pulisic start 12 games in a row his promising season was cut short by injury when he suffered a tendon injury that would see him sidelined until April. Many felt that said injury would likely cost Pulisic his starting spot and possibly important first-team minutes down the stretch of the season.
That was until the Coronavirus epidemic halted much of the sporting activity in the world. With the EPL season in limbo, many pundits felt that Pulisic would be working to crack a starting position for next season, but when the Premier League announced it would resume play in June, it gave the American an opportunity to finish the season strong.
Making an Impact
While Chelsea fans had seen flashes of what Christian Pulisic could do before his injury and global pandemic, it was not until the restart of the season that he truly found his footing, be it either as a starter or coming on as a sub making an impact.
Pulisic would come back strong scoring off the bench in Chelsea’s 2-1 win against Aston Villa and then scoring the opening goal against Manchester City in a 2-1 victory that helped Liverpool secure the EPL title. He would make a substitute appearance in a 4-3 defeat to Liverpool in which he completely changed the shape of the game upon his inclusion, scoring a goal and providing an assist and wrecking havoc on the Liverpool defense.
Pulisic would complete his stellar season scoring against the big clubs of the EPL by scoring the opening goal in the FA cup final against Arsenal but again during the match he pulled his hamstring and was subbed off in the 2-1 defeat.
Christian Pulisic Chelsea stats
In total Pulisic appeared in 34 games and scored 11 goals across all competitions, his best output to date. He scored 9 Premier League goals the second-most in a single season behind Clint Dempsey’s 17 in 2011/12. In the UEFA Champions League, his injuries only allowed him to make 4 appearances, but he did score one goal.
After a breakout but still injury-prone first season Christian Pulisic will have to stay healthy for the 2020/21 season given Chelsea’s transfer ban being lifted and the club's announcement that they have signed Timo Werner, another player that will fight for minutes in an already stacked club.
The key for Pulisic will be to either cement his starting position or play meaningful minutes in a club that will surely rotate players during the course of the season.
The US men’s national team will finally begin 2022 World Cup Qualifying in CONCACAF, as the USMNT will look to erase the stigma of not having qualified for the 2018 World Cup. A cycle in which Pulisic partook in but this time he will be the centerpiece of the U.S.’s hopes.
One thing is for sure, after a rollercoaster first season at Chelsea, Pulisic has made a very positive mark and has proven that he can hold his own at such an elite club.