Christian Pulisic has once again been linked with Premier League clubs, with the Mirror and Evening Standard on Monday mentioning that Chelsea would be interested in brining the American to Stamford Bridge.
It makes sense that multiple clubs are interested in Pulisic. Even putting aside his nationality and the possible marketing gains to be had from having America’s potentially biggest football star ever on the books, the 19-year-old is one of the biggest teenage talents in the world at the moment.
Born and raised in Pennsylvania with a Croatian grandfather, Pulisic offers the deadly combination of speed, directness and close control with his dribbling. In what was a poor season for Borussia Dortmund last year, Pulisic wasn’t able to shine consistently as much as he had in 2016/17, but he was still able to showcase his qualities.
For example, in their disappointing 3-1 loss at home to Bayern Munich last November, Pulisic was the heartbeat of Dortmund’s attacking threat, and completed eight dribbles, many of which were in dangerous positions.
Pulisic completed eight of 15 attempted take-ons against Bayern Munich last season.
Pulisic put pen to paper on a new Dortmund contract eighteen months ago, but with only two more years to run and a raft of changes at the club, the situation remains unresolved. Thomas Tuchel left the club and last season the Peter’s, Bosz and Stoger, struggled to build a team as enterprising as the Dortmund teams under Tuchel and his predecessor Jurgen Klopp.
Now Lucien Favre is in charge, a fine coach, but not one known for giving his wide players lots of attacking freedom. Where, at the time of his contract extension, Pulisic looked to be in the perfect place to develop, now it’s not so certain.
But if Pulisic were to make the move from Germany to England, which of Chelsea or Tottenham - the other club Pulisic has been linked to recently - would make the most sense for the American?
Competition for places
At both clubs Pulisic would presumably compete for one of the wide forward spots in a 4-3-3 or 4-2-3-1. At Chelsea Eden Hazard has the left wing position sewn up and one would expect that at Tottenham Christian Eriksen would play as one of the wide players, were Mauricio Pochettino to go with a 4-2-3-1, though he’s more than capable of changing things up.
In both cases competition for places would be tough. Son Heung-min and Lucas Moura offer strong alternatives in North London, as do Willian and Pedro in the West side of the capital.
Pulisic though, offers a younger alternative to all those four, and were either club prepared to pay the necessary fee to get him, they would presumably put a lot of investment into his development. Presumably playing time wouldn’t be a significant issue at either club.
So what other factors would determine a decision for Pulisic were it to come down to Chelsea or Tottenham?
Both clubs play in London so the location wouldn’t make a difference. Chelsea could in theory offer a higher wage, though whether they’d be willing to make a youngster like Pulisic a top earner is doubtful.
Both clubs can realistically expect to be competitive within the top six, however, maybe Chelsea offer more realistic title aspirations in the long term. Given the small differences in all these factors, the most decisive factor would probably be which club the youngster has the best chance of developing at.
Pochettino's track record with youth
Tottenham and Mauricio Pochettino have developed a reputation for developing young players and enhancing their reputation. Harry Kane and Dele Alli are the poster boys but the likes of Eriksen, Kyle Walker and Danny Rose made significant strides over the last few years and players such as Adam Lallana, Morgan Schneiderlin and Luke Shaw experienced similar progression under Pochettino at Southampton.
All the evidence suggests that were Pulisic to go to Tottenham, he’d be another fine name in Pochettino’s scrapbook of player development.
REUTERS/Denis Poroy Chelsea, though, offer their own compelling case. Traditionally one wouldn’t consider them as the type of club a player like Pulisic would flourish at. This is the club, after all, where Kevin De Bruyne, Romelu Lukaku and Mohamed Salah ‘failed’ upon arriving in the Premier League, only to flourish elsewhere when given more opportunities.
The Blues have been known for favouring hardened, seasoned pros, with superior experience and game smarts over young, exciting flair players. But things could be about to change. Maurizio Sarri is the new Chelsea manager, and he’s something of a revelation when compared to Chelsea’s other coaches in the Roman Abramovich era.
The Sarri Renaissance
Upon taking over at Napoli, Sarri overturned the style to a possession heavy approach, and significantly improved the attacking performance of the team and the individuals within it.
Napoli went from a run-of-the-mill contender for the Champions League places in Italy to one of the most exciting teams in Europe who were able to push Juventus all the way in the race for the Scudetto and the likes of Lorenzo Insigne and Dries Mertens had explosions in their end product.
REUTERS/Eric Gaillard If Sarri is able to have a similar impact at Chelsea to the one he had at Napoli, then any forwards at the club would benefit, both from his coaching and from the increased emphasis on attacking play in his tactics.
It would mean Chelsea go from a club a player of Pulisic’s talents would do best to avoid, to a club who offer an intriguing project, where the American could refine his skills, and increase his end product.
Stick or twist?
Tottenham feels like a safe bet for a player like Pulisic. While he’d have to compete for playing time, he’d receive high quality coaching in a new environment. Such a move could also work as a springboard for a transfer to an even bigger club in the future.
On the other hand, Chelsea would offer an exciting opportunity that wouldn’t have been so appealing under Antonio Conte or Jose Mourinho. An additional interesting dynamic could be Hazard’s future. Were the star to depart to greater things, such as Real Madrid - though speculation on that one seems to be cooling - then Pulisic could even become the new poster boy for Chelsea’s attack in a way he wouldn’t be at Spurs.
Pulisic is a similar profile to the Belgian. Whether he is ready to fill Hazard's shoes at such an early stage of his career is another matter. But if Chelsea are prepared to provide their new Italian boss with time, then Pulisic could develop into something close to their influential winger.
While Tottenham is a logical fit, a move to Chelsea could have the biggest upside, and be a wild card worth taking for the 19-year-old sensation.