Is Christian Pulisic’s time at Chelsea coming to an end?

LONDON, ENGLAND - JANUARY 02: Christian Pulisic of Chelsea scores their side's second goal during the Premier League match between Chelsea and Liverpool at Stamford Bridge on January 02, 2022 in London, England. (Photo by Shaun Botterill/Getty Images)
LONDON, ENGLAND - JANUARY 02: Christian Pulisic of Chelsea scores their side's second goal during the Premier League match between Chelsea and Liverpool at Stamford Bridge on January 02, 2022 in London, England. (Photo by Shaun Botterill/Getty Images) /

As the January transfer window closed, so did the hopes of reenergizing a Chelsea attack that has been lacking polish this season—to say the least. While the idea of reuniting Ousmane Dembele with Thomas Tuchel ahead of the FIFA Club World Cup was tantalizing, it also was a bit unrealistic. The truth is that the Blues have acquired a bevy of attackers over the past two years and before retooling, they’ll have to make tough decisions regarding selling some of their high-profile players who may be underperforming.

This brings us to a question that is starting to gain some traction: What is Christian Pulisic’s future at Stamford Bridge? Admittedly, this is a difficult discussion to have, Pulisic is a bit of an enigma. On one hand, he is an American prodigy who has immense marketing value for the club from U.S.-based fans and companies. He’s arguably a top 100 footballer in the world at just 23 and it’s reasonable to assume that he’s yet to realize his full potential on the pitch. After a significant financial investment (£53 million) in 2019, there are surely those amongst the Chelsea brass who are optimistic of a stronger return-on-investment from the American superstar in the future.

Christian Pulisic’s future at Chelsea is becoming a bit more uncertain each day

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As a player, Pulisic flashes the ability of a world class talent. He’s fearless taking on defenders and he has a hunter’s instinct when on the pitch. More importantly, he’s been a player seemingly willing to do anything asked of him, whether or not it’s to his advantage. This season alone, he’s covered as a wingback, winger and false nine as the team has dealt with injuries and COVID-19.

On the other hand, despite the limitless potential, there are warning signs regarding Pulisic’s growth within the Premier League. The challenge to Pulisic’s alluring future is simple—he’s a player that appears to either be plateauing or declining depending on your perspective. In league competition since joining the English top flight in 2019, his individual performance metics have regressed significantly (according to fbref):

The data suggest that, whether attributed to player ability or system fit, Pulisic has experienced decline in nearly every meaningful advanced statistic. Most notable is his decline in Expected Goal plus Expected Assist per 90 minutes Played (xG+xA/90). This is a stat where he ranked fourth, sixth and now ninth on the team respectively (with a minimum of 10 matches played) from 2020 through 2022. Sure, there are external variables that cannot be calculated when looking at the statistics, but these stats—combined with increasing unavailability due to injury—surely create some red flags for a team looking to evaluate its deadwood.

The performance evaluation goes beyond advanced metrics. When utilizing the eye-test, you could argue that Pulisic has looked uncomfortable all season. It’s not just playing out of position, but a seeming frustration within a system that asks him to be more patient or passive than he traditionally likes to be. This frustration has created an environment where Pulisic is vying for a chance to optimize every opportunity, even when it’s to the detriment of the team’s success, in order to regain confidence within himself and from his teammates.

Chelsea is a team that is stocked full of attacking players with outrageously high potential. Players like Kai Havertz and Callum Hudson-Odoi are desperately seeking opportunities, while more established players—such as Romelu Lukaku and Mason Mount—are firmly cemented in their roles in the attacking third. This logjam creates a significant conundrum for the Blues’ board as it’ll certainly look to back Tuchel in the upcoming summer transfer window by buying more consistent players that fit his system.

Considering everything, Pulisic is likely to become a transfer casualty. Despite his moments of pure brilliance, his reliability in terms of health and performance are too inconsistent to meet the standards of a team looking to sustain itself long-term in Premier League title chase. With a market value that’s declining annually, Transfermarkt now assesses Pulisic to be worth £36.4 million compared to his 2020 value of £48.5 million. Marina Granovskaia will undoubtedly be aware that Pulisic is unlikely to gain a higher value under his current trajectory. Chelsea’s director will look to maximize his sale ahead of the pursuit of bigger names like Dembele, Declan Rice, Aurelien Tchouameni and who knows, maybe even Erling Haaland!

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What do you think the future holds for Pulisic at Chelsea? Let us know your thoughts in the comments or on Twitter!