With Eden Hazard having finally departed for Real Madrid this summer and a transfer ban threatening to drive a huge wedge between them and their free-spending competition, Chelsea have a mountain to climb next season if they are to achieve the ideal top-four finish.
Firstly, replacing the electric Belgian’s impact in the final third looks nigh on impossible. Hazard chalked up 16 goals and 15 assists in the Premier League last term.
However, at least Blues fans can look forward to the arrival of Christian Pulisic. His switch to Stamford Bridge was delayed due to Borussia Dortmund’s insistence that the speedster be loaned straight back to them after the two clubs agreed a deal worth £58m in January.
The 20-year-old can be considered one of the hottest talents to come out of America, but the stellar form of Jadon Sancho saw him make just nine league starts for BVB in 2018/19. The USA international will surely be hoping that he can nail down a starting spot under Frank Lampard.
With the addition of Pulisic one of few things to be excited about, these Chelsea fans can be forgiven for hyping up their new winger ahead of the new season.
Really excited to see CHO and Pulisic on our flanks. For years we had to watch willian or Pedro stink up the right. Gonna be sweet watching two vibrant youths running at clumsy defenders. Giroud should feast.
— ? (@Mac10Dro) July 9, 2019
Pedro as backup to pulisic at RW and
Willian as backup to CHO at LW will be ideal..
— Kingloftus (@1am_5h4rp) July 9, 2019
I'm sure he will conquer… I've got soo much hope on him to deliver for us.
— Domicile herb (@domicileherb) June 10, 2019
People underestimating Pulisic before he’s even played a single game for us. He’s definitely an upgrade on Willian and Pedro and is a lot younger so he will have a lot more time to improve. He has a lot of potential to be good and I think once he’s comfortable; he will shine
— ZΛCH (@CFCZach) June 17, 2019
I’m really excited for Pulisic to play next season! Everyone talking about hazard but I’ve mentally accepted that he will leave.. so fresh for a young winger to join us, I’m sick of the ancient Willian and Pedro, we need young talent, welcome to Chelsea Pulisic ? #CFC #ChelseaFC pic.twitter.com/HjhsgJ5sUx
— Hashim CFC (@CFCHash) May 13, 2019
Unfortunately, though, there are a few improvements the starlet has to make if he is to be an upgrade on Willian on Pedro, who have dominated the wings at Stamford Bridge for the past few years. But what areas of Pulisic’s game are in desperate need of development?
With 2.1 dribbles per game to his name last season, Pulisic is a threat when allowed to drive at the opposition but his usage of the ball could do with some work. The hot-heeled wide man completes 1 key pass per game, whereas Willian completes an impressive 2.5.
Of course, the Brazilian recorded just one more goal contribution (nine total) than Chelsea’s new signing (eight total) despite having an extra 1,185 minutes under his belt. Yet, the lack of a prolific striker – Gonzalo Higuain netted just five and Olivier Giroud two – who can put away chances with regularity indicates that Willian’s underwhelming stats are perhaps misleading.
Fortunately, the return of Tammy Abraham, who netted 25 goals while on loan at Aston Villa last term, means that the Blues will have at least one form striker come August, while Michy Batshuayi also impressed for Crystal Palace, scoring five times.
If Pulisic is to outshine his competition in this department, he has to pick his head up and start making the incisive passes.
Possession was the name of the game for Maurizio Sarri last term, achieving 59.9% and, while the same may not be said for Lampard, whose Derby team averaged 53.4%, the importance of being able to find a pass with consistency remains.
The former PA Classics youngster is always looking to make things happen with an ambitious forward pass or run but there are times when being conservative and simply retaining the ball is preferable.
The 5-foot 7 attacker has plenty of work to do on the training ground if he is to prevent himself from being a liability in that department.
With Europa League top-scorer Giroud a prime candidate to start the season as first-choice striker, frequency of balls into the box will surely soar.
Former Shakhtar Donetsk man Willian will have no problem finding his big French target. The 30-year-old completed a team-high 1.2 accurate crosses per game last term, however, Pulisic could do with some practise.
The starlet delivered just 0.4 accurate balls into the 18-yard per game last season and will struggle to dislodge Willian from the starting XI if he can’t prove to Lampard that he can hit Giroud’s head on a regular basis.
If Pulisic cannot make the wing spot his own, the prospect of vying for a starting place in the number 10 role with Mason Mount, Ruben Loftus-Cheek and Ross Barkley is an unenviable one.