Hazard comparisons & USA’s darling – how ‘Captain America’ Pulisic announced his arrival
‘Captain America' was how Fikayo Tomori described Chelsea team-mate Christian Pulisic in the week. After a hat-trick against Burnley, it might be time for a promotion.
The 21-year-old USA winger marked his first Premier League start since August with a perfect hat-trick (left foot, right foot and header) in the Blues' 4-2 win at Turf Moor.
His first three goals for Chelsea came as such a surprise he did not really know what to do.
“It's my first professional hat-trick so I nearly forgot the match ball, luckily my team-mates helped me out,” he told BBC Match of the Day.
The winger was fantastic at Turf Moor, with his first two goals coming following runs from the halfway line – and his third a header. That's right, a header against Burnley.
He terrorised the Clarets' defence, popping up on both flanks as well as through the centre, as the away fans sang his name.
Pulisic has not had an easy start to life in England.
He was the only real new face to join the Blues, who were under a transfer ban, this summer – having technically joined in January in a £58m move from Borussia Dortmund, before spending the second half of last season on loan at the German club.
He was straight into the team from the off – but Frank Lampard's side only managed one win from the four Premier League games he featured in during August and so he was out.
Not that he did anything particularly wrong, but Chelsea have an abundance of attacking options and he found it near-impossible to get back in.
“The first few months were definitely hard,” he said after the game. “I had a few starts, then I fell out a bit and I was just trying to get any minutes I could.”
Pulisic's struggles to get into the team ahead of Mason Mount, Willian and Callum Hudson-Odoi may not have been surprising to many English football fans.
But it was news in the USA, where he is seen as their big hope. ESPN even have an article that analyses every game he plays in.
Lampard has been repeatedly quizzed on when Pulisic would get his chance.
“I'm absolutely delighted for him,” Lampard said. “There has been a lot of talk about his price tag.
“He's a star in his own country, quite rightly. You get asked questions about it. I'm delighted to see him deliver.”
Following his exile from the team, he made three substitute appearances of under 30 minutes – plus one Carabao Cup start – but he set up three goals in that time, including against Southampton and Ajax.
Lampard may find it impossible to put him back on the bench now. Not that he will want to.
“I know the pressures of a move like that,” said his Chelsea manager. “He only had a one-week break this summer [with the US in the Gold Cup]. I try to deal with it as I see best. I've got competition in that area. He's been performing well from the bench, he fully deserved to start and a match-winning performance.
“I hope it gives him confidence, it should do. I'm pretty sure it will do.”
Pulisic is no rookie, having scored 19 goals in 127 games for Dortmund and another 13 in 34 for his country.
He added: “I just want to be on the field, help the team and make an impact. I didn't think it would be super easy. But I have come on a few times the past few weeks and was happy to start today, it was a special day.”
He is now one of many talented youngsters in the Chelsea team as they have risen to fourth in the table with a seven-game winning run in all competitions.
English trio Mount, Tammy Abraham and Tomori have all enjoyed fantastic seasons so far, with Pulisic replacing another – Hudson-Odoi – in Saturday's line-up.
When he first arrived, he could have been seen as a replacement for Eden Hazard, who left for Real Madrid this summer in a deal which could be worth up to £150m.
He was quick to downplay those comparisons at the time – but Hazard said Pulisic could be “one of the best in the future for sure”.
The Hazard chat may have died down with Pulisic out of the team, but this hat-trick – already halfway to Hazard's total of two Premier League trebles – will soon reignite comparisons.
He has now been involved in eight goals this season despite so little action. Only Abraham, with nine, has been involved in more.
Luckily he has a bit of help with learning about goalscoring – manager Lampard is the Blues' all-time top scorer with 211.
“He was an incredible goalscorer so we work on it a lot in training,” said Pulisic on his manager.
Three down, 208 to go for Pulisic.
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