Christian Pulisic made U.S. soccer historical past final week when he reached an settlement to hitch Chelsea within the coming summer time switch window. Borussia Dortmund, the place Pulisic has performed since 2015, will pocket $73 million for the rights to him — by far the most important charge ever for an American. However this switch raises a variety of questions: Is Pulisic well worth the cash? What can Chelsea anticipate from a younger participant out of the Bundesliga, and the way nicely does the American match his new membership’s wants? How will Pulisic slot into supervisor Maurizio Sarri’s system, and what can followers anticipate to see from him within the coming years?
The first query is easy methods to modify for a switch from the Bundesliga, the highest tier of German soccer. Can we anticipate Pulisic’s manufacturing to drop off considerably from Germany to England? Given the gamers who’ve moved between the 2 leagues earlier than, the reply is not any.
Since 2010-11, 103 midfielders or attackers have transferred between the Bundesliga and the Premier League. Normalized for minutes, these gamers created about 371 anticipated objectives and assists within the Bundesliga and 364 within the Premier League, based mostly on knowledge from analytics agency Opta Sports activities. That’s a distinction of about 2 %.
Whereas there’s variation, on common a participant who creates attacking possibilities within the Bundesliga may be counted on to do the identical within the Premier League.
With greater than 6,000 minutes performed earlier than his 21st birthday, Pulisic is in rarefied air already. Because the 2010-11 season, solely 47 gamers have greater than 6,000 minutes performed amongst one of many prime 5 European leagues and the Champions League.
And even amongst that group, Pulisic’s manufacturing stands out. Listed here are gamers since 2010 with at the least 2,500 minutes performed earlier than their age-21 season, sorted by anticipated objectives and anticipated assists per 90 minutes, with strikers excluded.
Pulisic is one among Europe’s elite kids
European soccer leaders (excluding strikers) in anticipated objectives plus anticipated assists per 90 minutes previous to turning 21 and nonpenalty objectives plus assists for as much as three seasons* afterwards
* Season listed is the yr through which the season began
Minimal 2,500 minutes performed within the huge 5 European leagues
Supply: Opta Sports activities
Not each younger star hits: Lucas Ocampos stays a succesful however unspectacular Ligue 1 attacker for Marseille, Erik Lamela has struggled at Tottenham and confronted main damage issues, and Xherdan Shaqiri stagnated for years earlier than turning into a key cog in Jurgen Klopp’s Liverpool squad this season. However on common, outcomes are robust. In as much as three seasons after their age-20 seasons, these gamers averaged zero.54 nonpenalty objectives and assists per 90 minutes. That’s an enchancment for his or her anticipated objectives and assists numbers — gamers who’re this good at 20 are likely to get even higher of their early 20s.
And as befitting that manufacturing, gamers like this have a tendency to seek out their strategy to huge golf equipment. Excluding the gamers at present of their age-20 seasons, 18 of 27 are regulars at groups within the Soccer Energy Index prime 20. Additional, when gamers this younger and this productive make their strikes to huge golf equipment, it’s costly. Ousmane Dembele, Pulisic’s teammate on the time at Dortmund, value Barcelona nicely over $100 million. Pulisic’s teammate-to-be Eden Hazard value Chelsea solely about $40 million in a much less inflated market after his age-21 season. A number of others got here extra cheaply — Inter Milan promoting Philippe Coutinho for lower than $15 million after the numbers he put up as a 20-year-old seems like a traditionally poor determination, whereas the much less spectacular futures of Ocampos and Domenico Berardi recommend the roughly $10 million charges paid for his or her providers have been extra in keeping with their values. On common, the gamers on this chart who transferred inside two years of their age-20 season value about $44 million.
Pulisic’s future appears vibrant, and Chelsea’s payment isn’t out of line with what gamers of his pedigree are likely to command. However one concern that arises right here is that Pulisic’s greatest manufacturing got here in his age-17 to -19 seasons. Now at 20, when he ought to be coming into his personal, his manufacturing has declined from his normal zero.four to zero.5 anticipated objectives and assists per 90 minutes to lower than zero.three. He has even misplaced beginning minutes within the Bundesliga to Jadon Sancho.
The decline represents fewer than 1,000 minutes, and Pulisic’s complete manufacturing together with these minutes stays robust. However the drop continues to be regarding. The drawback seems to be Pulisic’s position within the system of latest Dortmund supervisor Lucien Favre. Favre prefers a extra defensive and counterattacking system than the high-pressing, high-possession fashion of Thomas Tuchel, beneath whom Pulisic broke in. This yr, Pulisic is enjoying a lot deeper on the pitch than he ever used to. Solely about eight % of his open-play move receptions have been within the penalty space or on the flanks close to the penalty space, in contrast with about 13 % in earlier seasons with Dortmund. As an alternative, Pulisic has finished far more buildup work, with 13 % of his passes acquired within the central space of the defensive half, in contrast with 6 % beforehand.
Pulisic is presently anticipated to contribute to a slower buildup fashion or assist run counterattacks by means of the middle, fairly than making himself obtainable as a passing outlet close to the objective or close to the endline. However it’s that latter talent the place he has stood out.
Pulisic has averaged simply fewer than 1.5 open-play passes acquired into the penalty space in his profession thus far. The most comparable gamers at such a younger age are strikers — a couple of being among the many greatest forwards on the planet.
Pulisic is nice at discovering area
European soccer leaders in fee of receiving passes contained in the penalty space per 90 minutes, amongst gamers previous to turning 21
Season listed is the yr during which the season began
Minimal 2,500 minutes performed within the massive 5 European leagues
Supply: Opta Sports activities
Pulisic doesn’t appear to be a greater prospect than Leroy Sane or Raheem Sterling in shot manufacturing. And he definitely falls behind strikers like Kylian Mbappe, Mauro Icardi, Gabriel Jesus, Timo Werner and Romelu Lukaku in goal-scoring prowess. However what you get in Pulisic is sweet shot manufacturing and an elite capacity to make himself out there for passes in harmful areas. In Favre’s system, the place deep possession sequences across the penalty space are much less widespread, his greatest expertise are wasted.
Sarri’s high-possession Chelsea assault, nevertheless, may simply be the right place for Pulisic’s recreation. On the similar time, Pulisic could also be simply the attacker that Chelsea must get Sarri’s assault flowing. At Napoli, Sarri’s staff accomplished elite numbers of open-play passes inside or into the penalty space, 11.7 per match in his remaining season in 2017-18. However Chelsea this yr has accomplished simply 9.eight open-play passes within the penalty space per match regardless of a better share of possession (61.9 %) than Napoli had final yr (60.three %). Favre’s Dortmund, with its much less possession-heavy fashion, has solely 9.1 of these passes per match. Pulisic might discover the appropriate match for his expertise at Chelsea, and the Blues seem to wish a participant with Pulisic’s means to seek out area within the penalty space to execute their supervisor’s techniques.
Whereas different People have discovered regular work within the English Premier League — Tim Howard, Clint Dempsey, Brian McBride — none has commanded even near the cash that Pulisic has. All eyes will probably be him from day one. However Pulisic’s mixture of manufacturing at a younger age and expertise that match the wants of his new membership make him a superb guess to succeed even underneath worldwide scrutiny.
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