Replacing Eden Hazard at Chelsea is going to be no easy feat after he left England for the sunny sights of Madrid. That’s regardless of the transfer fee paid, whether you bring in an addition for £100m or someone on a free. However, their new £58m man Christian Pulisic has all the tools to succeed and fill that very void. It would be fair to have your doubts, the kid is only 20 and struggled to cement much of a regular place amongst Borussia Dortmund’s line-up last season by starting just nine games.
Pre-season has given some indication to how Pulisic may fare at Stamford Bridge under what looks to be a fresh start for all. His performance in the Kawasaki Frontale defeat can be forgiven. Not one player particularly played well and that was his very first game in a Chelsea shirt. Not to mention that he had only just ended his summer break early to help smooth the transition into Frank Lampard’s system. Only a few weeks ago, he had made the Gold Cup final with the United States.
His showing against Barcelona was a different story. Along with the midfield pivot duo of Mateo Kovacic and Jorginho, Pulisic looked like the best player on the park. He attacked with intent rather than just for the sake of it. Whether he was on the wing or deployed through the middle, he demanded the ball – he wanted to be the focal point of every attack. His pace, dynamism and drive almost mirrored that of Hazard, as if he wasn’t gone at all.
Against Reading, the 20-year-old was even more remarkable – and I don’t particularly care if it was against a substantially weaker team – vision is vision. Put a thousand men in defence and I think the American could still pick a pass out. Olivier Giroud dropping deep always allowed him space but nothing ever came to fruition as the rest of the team lacked movement and that final cutting-edge pass. He was rather unfortunate to be paired with much of Chelsea’s back-up options with Fikayo Tomori next to Andreas Christensen in defence whilst Tiemoue Bakayoko even received a run-out.
Pulisic is sure to be one of the first names on the team sheet and alongside him he will have other creative outlets which will allow him to thrive. Ross Barkley looks like a new signing with Lampard’s influence already clear having scored a stunning free-kick whilst Mason Mount is continuing on from last season’s exploits which included six assists and 11 goals in 44 appearances. Pedro, Willian and Callum Hudson-Odoi will give the former Dortmund ace the opportunity for some freedom to operate too. Sitting behind him will always be two of Jorginho, Kovacic and N’Golo Kante which is sure to light up his brain. Those three players will be able to provided the right passes, movement and nous that’s required at the very top of the Premier League. The sort which will allow Pulisic a cracking shot at replacing the 21-goal Hazard.
His natural ability is clear and his future is very bright. That can only mean good things for Chelsea and his teammates going forward. If anyone in the squad is to help lessen the loss of Hazard, it will be this man. He has the ability to score, assist and be the team’s major protagonist. He’s got it all and the Premier League will soon see that this season.