Chelsea: Christian Pulisic’s international form makes a case for 4-2-3-1 – The Pride of London

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GENK, BELGIUM – NOVEMBER 20: Christian Pulisic of USA in action during the International Friendly match between Italy and the United States of America at Cristal Arena on November 20, 2018 in Genk, Belgium. (Photo by Dean Mouhtaropoulos/Getty Images) Christian Pulisic was bought by Chelsea to play as a winger. But his recent usage by the United States makes a 4-2-3-1 with him as a 10 tempting.Christian Pulisic spent most of his last season at Dortmund injured or recovering from injury. He gained full fitness towards the end when he put in great performances that gave Chelsea fans new to him something to be excited about.Currently, the young American is at the Gold Cup with the United States Men’s National Team. Though the opposition is not difficult, the competition still gives a glimpse of what Pulisic can offer when he puts on the blue shirt.For the USMNT, Pulisic has been lining up as the most offensive midfielder in a 4-3-3 or a 10 in a 4-2-3-1. The line between the two has been blurred but more recently he has moved offensively and defensively like a 10. His performances with the USMNT as a 10 should be giving incoming (any day now!) manager Frank Lampard serious thought towards a 4-2-3-1 with Pulisic as the 10.Now, do not mistake Pulisic as a 10 as a traditional Mesut Ozil like playmaker. Think of it more like Eden Hazard’s role as a false nine but with a striker up front to supplement. Pulisic starts centrally and defends high with the striker, but he does not stay there on offense. He has often rotated with the left winger (and occasionally the right winger as well). Once wide, he either crosses with some degree of skill or cuts into the space he vacated centrally.He seems to have such a natural ability to find space in this role. Because he is moving from the center to the wing, it is hard to track him. Even the fullback struggles to follow him as the winger they were on moves out of Pulisic’s way. The fullback gets stuck in two minds and in that hesitation, Pulisic excels.For Chelsea, this would look like a band of three of Callum Hudson-Odoi (when fit), Pulisic, and Willian. Hudson-Odoi likes to cut in from wide, which could give Pulisic the space to move from in to out. It is a movement pattern that Maurizio Sarri tried to make work with Eden Hazard and company last season, but none of the midfielders he picked in the most attacking left center mid role seemed comfortable with drifting that wide.There is one issue with this setup though: a midfielder probably needs to drop to make room for what is effectively three wingers. Ruben Loftus-Cheek initially started his Chelsea career in the pivot of a 4-2-3-1 with Jose Mourinho, but that seems a waste of his more developed skill set.There is a chance that Loftus-Cheek lines up as the 10 and is taught to be more comfortable with rotating to the wing. Indeed, both he and Ross Barkley have had moments of playing as “wingers” during their Chelsea career and it may be worth exploring more fully with Pulisic’s movement.4-2-3-1’s with heavy centermid and winger rotations have gone out of style since the 4-3-3 started seeing more and more 10s in midfield roles. Chelsea is quite suited to both and Lampard has shown a flexibility of going between either depending on the midfielders he has available. Pulisic’s recent USA showings have been excellent from whatever brand the central role gets and it should give Lampard something to think about for next season.
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