Chelsea: Team honors Christian Pulisic with the No. 10 shirt

Chelsea’s awarding of the No. 10 jersey to Christian Pulisic is an honor for the player and a matter of great pride for his nation.

It’s official, Christian Pulisic has been awarded the No. 10 jersey for Chelsea. It’s nothing if not a great honor for the young United States international after only one season at one of the world’s greatest clubs. Pulisic logged 11 goals and six assists in all competitions throughout his debut season, including nine goals and all of his assists in 19 starts in the Premier League. All of this happened during a severely injury-curtailed—and somewhat frustrating—season for the American who struggled at times.

The bestowing of such an iconic shirt—most recently worn by Willian and Eden Hazard—is not only an individual honor, but also a source of immense pride for American fans. It’s actually hard to fathom that, after only one abbreviated season in blue, Pulisic could gain the respect, trust and confidence of the team to this extent. It’s a remarkable, noteworthy achievement for the young American.

Pulisic joined the Blues in January 2019 from Borussia Dortmund before being loaned back to the German club to see out the remainder of the season. It was a farsighted, exceptional deal that would prove to be of great consequence for the club later. The $73.2M transfer remains the largest ever for an American player.

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Therefore, the youngster certainly felt enormous the pressure to perform for his new club upon arrival. It had to be even more unsettling having to acclimatize to the new team, a new country and perhaps most difficult of all, to the best football league in the world. Clearly it was a monstrous challenge for the then 20-year-old. In these regards, speaking English undoubtedly helped; the words attributed to the great Winston Churchill, George Bernard Shaw, or maybe Oscar Wilde, that “…England and America… as ‘two nations divided by a common language'” notwithstanding.

Pulisic began the season in good form, most clearly demonstrated at Burnley last October when he notched a perfect hat-trick. That made it clear to all the world that the young American had arrived. Yet, all was not rosy for the 21-year-old as injuries took their toll and kept him out of the line-up for a number of games prior to the suspension of play due to the pandemic. It was after that break in play that a new, more dynamic Captain America emerged.

He reemerged with a significantly altered, more vertical playing strategy—one manager Frank Lampard calls a more direct attacking style. His revamped game plan, along with accompanying brilliant performances by Olivier Giroud and Willian, helped spark a late surge by Chelsea that catapulted them into a tie on points for third place (with a fourth place finish) in the league. Pulisic’s superb post-suspension breakout must have had a defining influence on the club as it evaluated who should receive the coveted No. 10 jersey. Now, as the season opener rapidly approaches, Chelsea’s new No. 10 may be available for the first match at Brighton and if fit, he will likely have earned his starting spot.

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Yet, no matter, whenever he does make his debut in the shirt, his pride will most certainly echo throughout America’s “soccer” fandom. They will justifiably beam that a United States Men’s National Team member—perhaps its best ever—has been so quickly, unexpectedly and wonderfully recognized with the No. 10 shirt by Chelsea.