On Sunday, Christian Pulisic produced another terrific performance in Chelsea’s FA Cup win over Leicester City. Now that the USMNT star has proven his ability, the hard work starts.
It has been quite the return to action for Christian Pulisic. After making just one appearance in 2020 due to injury before lockdown, the U.S. Men’s National Team hope and hero was ushered back into the Chelsea set-up this week by Frank Lampard. And what an impact he has had.
It started with a crucial goal against Aston Villa from off the bench. Chelsea were 1-0 down and Pulisic’s smashed finish into the roof of the net commenced a two-minute comeback to win 2-1. Then he scored an outrageous solo goal against Manchester City, collecting a loose ball on the halfway line, beating two defenders, and then sliding a lovely finish into the far corner.
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And then on Sunday, he was Chelsea’s Man of the Match in a narrow 1-0 win against Leicester City in the FA Cup quarter-finals. He did not play a part in the goal, but his silky dribbling, exquisite balance, and explosive acceleration were a nightmare for Leicester throughout. He posed a threat whenever he received the ball.
There were plenty of concerns regarding Chelsea’s signing of Pulisic last year. More sceptical onlookers suggested that the move was done because of the commercial success the winger provides. He would sell shirts and provide Chelsea with a major foothold in a vastly growing American market. However, as his performances this week show, Pulisic is more than a toy to look pretty and sell to Americans.
After his goal against City, Lampard was effusive in his praise of the USMNT winger. He celebrated his performance, heralded his skill level, and said that he could be a big player for the future of the Chelsea team. He also proclaimed that Pulisic can reach the level of Sadio Mane, Raheem Sterling and even Mohamed Salah. Speaking to reporters via NBC Sports, Lampard said:
“If he wants to learn, and he does, then on the training pitch and how he sees the game and if he looks around him and sees the players around him that have made that sort of a jump. He has the ability of the Raheem Sterling’s who are producing numbers from wide areas, the Mo Salah’s and Mane’s. It’s important he understands the work that needs to be done to do that because he definitely has the talent to do that. He needs to try and get to that level. I’m delighted to have him at the minute. He works hard every day and he has to set his sights as high as he possibly can.”
Those that doubted Pulisic’s ability to handle the Premier League have already been proven wrong. His performances this season display the level required to flourish in the top tier of English — and world — football. But for Pulisic, simply proving he is capable is not enough. The difference between good and great players is consistency, repeatability, and reliability. Salah does not produce match-winning performances when he feels like it. He scores goals at a consistently excellent rate every season. The same can be said for Sterling, Mane and many others.
This is the level that Pulisic now reach, both for Chelsea and the USMNT. It is not enough to simply prove you are capable with a one-off performance. Now you must find consistency. And as Lampard states, for that, the hard work has only just begun.