Christian Pulisic has been a man reborn in recent weeks.
Following his record-breaking hat trick at Burnley on Saturday, the 21-year-old U.S. men’s national team star burst onto the scene and looks set to be a star for Chelsea.
But how has he turned things around?
A few weeks ago he was an unused substitute happy just to get minutes, and the game at Burnley was his first PL start since Aug. 31.
In the last few weeks there have been gradual signs that the penny has dropped for Pulisic from a tactical perspective. It was the same with the likes of Fabinho and Bernardo Silva, who both took time before becoming stars at Liverpool and Man City respectively.
It was going to take him time to adjust to a new team, a new country and a new league, but now he has and he’s grabbed assists and made a huge impact after coming off the bench against Southampton, Newcastle and then Ajax before his breakout at Burnley.
The biggest tactical change when watching Pulisic in the last few weeks compared to his first few months at Chelsea is that he’s no longer stuck on the flank. He’s operating more centrally and finding gaps in between the full backs and center backs which he can drive into. In previous games he was too isolated, hugging the touchline out wide and barely being involved in the play.
Sometimes something so simple can have a huge difference, and Pulisic has obviously spent his time on the bench and out of the team thinking about how he can have the biggest impact when he’s on the pitch. Fair play to him for not getting his head down and feeling sorry for himself. There was none of that and you could see the fire in his eyes as he aimed to make this season, and spell at Chelsea, a success.
He is now playing to his strengths whenever he can.
Pulisic’s best quality is his ability to dribble at pace with the ball and he can use either foot to do so, which is exactly how he scored his first two goals at Burnley. On the defensive side of the game he still has to improve, with his giveaway leading to Burnley’s first goal, and there are still concerns about him tracking back and his positional ability in defensive situations. Even though that isn’t why Pulisic is in the Chelsea team, he needs to improve in that area. And he knows it.
The USMNT star knows he still has a long way to go to nail down a regular spot in the Chelsea team, with Mason Mount, Willian, Pedro and Callum Hudson-Odoi all battling it out with him for minutes. There will still be ups and downs and Pulisic will have to work on being more consistent.
His performances over the last few weeks suggests he has now adapted his game to the PL and now he’s a marked man after his hat trick.
That means Pulisic will have to keep on evolving to stay on top. He has all the skills to do so, and now it’s about making the most of the incredible momentum the last 10 days have given him.
The kid is becoming a man.