Chelsea face Sheffield United at Bramall Lane on Saturday looking to reaffirm their stranglehold on a Champions League qualification spot.
The Blues leapfrogged Leicester into third place following a hard-fought win away at Crystal Palace, with Christian Pulisic amongst the goalscorers.
The £58m winger has been one of the league’s standout players since the restart and looks to be thriving on the left-hand side of a Chelsea attack which been very potent in recent weeks.
Losing Eden Hazard to Real Madrid last summer was clearly a huge blow to Chelsea and their ambitions of closing the gap on Manchester City and Liverpool.
The Belgian’s influence on Chelsea in 2018/19 was as great as it had ever been. His combined 31 goals and assists ensured that Hazard contributed to 49% of Chelsea’s 63 league goals. He also produced a Man of the Match display in the 4-1 victory over Arsenal in the Europa League Final.
While still a young player, Pulisic’s close control and acceleration past defenders are eerily similar to that of Hazard.
The American’s ability to weave out of tight spaces is a key weapon. Defenders know that one false step can be costly, as has been seen with Pulisic winning two penalties in his last three matches.
Pulisic has a long way to go to match Hazard but recent performances have demonstrated similarities between the pair and Frank Lampard will be hoping that the American can continue his good form in the run-in.
Emergence as a key player
Pulisic has been the key man in Chelsea’s attack since the Premier League restarted. In five matches, Chelsea have scored more than twice on all five occasions, with Willian also impressing from the wide areas.
It has been clear, however, that Pulisic has taken his opportunity with both hands and has established himself as Chelsea’s key creative outlet, registering 11 dribbles and seven key passes in his last four games. His influence in the final third has developed substantially.
Encouragingly, his three goals since the restart have come in different ways. A back-post tap-in, an impressive run in behind and finish and a resounding hit on his weaker foot have shown that Pulisic can impact the game in many ways.
Not only is he a dangerous dribbler but he is developing an appetite and hunger for goals which Lampard has cited as an important asset to wingers in the best teams.
With the imminent arrivals of Timo Werner and Hakim Ziyech as well as the rumours circulating around Kai Havertz, Chelsea’s attacking options look to be revitalised now Pulisic has emerged in such style.
Pulisic will undoubtedly face competition for his place with such arrivals.
However, if he continues in this vein of form, Lampard will be blessed with a wide player with an appetite to score goals as well as excelling in one-vs-one situations and drawing fouls from opponents who do not know which way to turn.
With the likes of Callum Hudson-Odoi in Chelsea’s ranks too, Lampard has a plethora of exciting talent at his disposal.
If Christian Pulisic continues his recent form, Lampard may have unearthed the man to lead his attack for years to come.
The first objective for Pulisic and Chelsea is to qualify for a coveted Champions League place.
This weekend’s game at Sheffield United should give Pulisic another chance to shine as his influence on a new-look Chelsea is emerging at a rapid rate.