What will Mauricio Pochettino do with Christian Pulisic at Chelsea?
Chelsea need to trim their bloated squad this season, but there is reason to believe that the USMNT captain could enjoy a renaissance.
Mauricio Pochettino has reportedly agreed to take over as manager of Chelsea this summer, with a three-year deal set to be announced in the coming days.
The Argentine comes into a club in disarray after a chaotic season that saw the Blues finish 12th in the Premier League. The club has an expensively assembled but bloated squad, one that needs to be trimmed to ensure that they can keep within the Financial Fair Play (FFP) guidelines.
A big clear-out is expected this summer, so who is for the chop? One name that has been mooted is USMNT captain Christian Pulisic, who has struggled for consistency during his four-year spell at the club. However the 24-year-old’s attributes could make him an ideal Pochettino player.
Will Pulisic stay at Chelsea?
Christian Pulisic was brought to Stamford Bridge to much fanfare in 2019. Aged just 20 at the time, Chelsea paid Borussia Dortmund $73 million (£57.6 million) for his services and were required to loan him back to the German club for the remainder of the season.
He has enjoyed promising spells during his time in England but a combination of injury issues and inconsistent form have prevented him from ever nailing down a starting berth at Chelsea. However because he broke through at such a young age, making his Bundesliga debut at 17, it is easy to forget that Pulisic is still only 24 and could still be moulded into an elite attacking player.
Pochettino actually commented on Pulisic’s Chelsea transfer at the time, singling him out as the type of player that he wished he could sign while he was manager of Tottenham Hotspur.
“A club like Chelsea can spend big money on [Pulisic] and then send him on loan,” Pochettino said. “Do you think Tottenham can do this? No.”
Pulisic’s current contract ends next summer, meaning that he is now 12 months away from being able to leave the club on a free. This would be a disaster for Chelsea from an FFP perspective and could allow a rival to improve their squad on the cheap. Todd Boehly, Chelsea co-owner, is thought to be extremely reluctant to allow players to run down their contracts so a decision will need to be made in the coming weeks. Either Pulisic extends his current deal, or the club looks for a buyer.
Will Pulisic fit Pochettino’s Chelsea style?
Despite the American’s struggles in London, there is reason to believe that Pochettino could get the best out of Pulisic. Pochettino’s success at Tottenham was built on his ability to get the best out of energetic young players with the ability to play on the counter-attack. At 24, Pulisic still has room to improve and his pace and dribbling skills make him lethal on transitions.
He would also have a more natural position in the Chelsea side under Pochettino. Under Thomas Tuchel Chelsea played with a back three, meaning that Pulisic was sometimes deployed as a wing back with much more defensive responsibilities.
Pochettino, meanwhile, favours a 4-2-3-1 with attacking midfielders sometimes used as the wide forwards. At Tottenham Christian Eriksen played on the left flank, with a freedom to drift inside and influence the game. Pulisic’s dribbling ability and dynamism would make him a useful option in any of the three positions behind the central striker.
At Spurs Son Heung-Min was 24 was he enjoyed his breakthrough season in the Premier League under Pochettino, converting him from an inconsistent winger into a goal-scoring wide forward. Pulisic will be hoping that the incoming Chelsea boss can perform a similar transformation with his career.