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Liga Teratas

05-Jul-2020, 06:25 pm

Pulisic is like Hazard - The only way to stop Chelsea's American sensation is to foul him

Christian Pulisic, 2020-21 Chelsea jersey

Christian Pulisic delivered the fourth of July fireworks but unlike the United States Independence Day displays, his are a twice-weekly occurrence as he reluctantly fills the Eden Hazard shaped hole at Stamford Bridge.

The USMNT star keeps stealing the show at Chelsea and he was one of the top performers in the 3-0 win over Watford.

It has been five games since the restart after the coronavirus enforced break and he has shown the consistency to go with his goals, assists and sensational dribbling.

Increasingly, those dribbles are turning into him winning fouls as teams struggle to deal with his pace, direct running and change of direction.

The biggest beneficiary is Willian, who is on a run of scoring penalties in three consecutive matches with Pulisic winning the last two for his fellow wide-man. Alongside that, Pulisic won the free-kick that Willian scored away at West Ham in midweek.

On Saturday, Watford couldn't get to grips with Pulisic's rapidacceleration, making him unplayable for their backline. Indeed, he was Chelsea's most fouled player having been brought down four times, which included Etienne Capoue's rash challenge for the penalty in the 43rd minute.

Chelsea didn't make the most of his free-kick winning potential on the night. There has been much excitement about RB Leipzig's Timo Werner arriving at the club soon, but perhaps Hakim Ziyech will profit from Pulisic's set piece winning ability most.

Again, he could have had another penalty in the 84th-minute as a tormented Adrian Mariappa collided with him in the box. Referee Kevin Friend may not have had the clearest view of the incident, but VAR backed him up and waved it away.

"I got fouled for the second one as well and I thought it might be overturned but it is what it is. I feel confident in my game right now and I feel like I can help the team," Pulisic said toSky Sportsafter the match.

The simple need to bring down Pulisic is a growing trend as he becomes Chelsea's most fouled player since the restart. He has been brought down once every 51 minutes, up from 72 minutes for the rest of the season.

This is a man withconfidence as he overtakes Willian and Mason Mount who had previously been fouled more regularly than him. The next challenge might be finding himself being doubled up on, as clubsbegin to see him as the biggest threat to their chances when facing the Blues.

That is what happened to Hazard, due to his effectiveness in one-versus-one situations, but Pulisic was reluctant to compare himself with the Belgian.

"Eden was an incredible player for Chelsea and he is world class. I'm not trying to compare to him, I'm just trying to be my own player," Pulisic added.

Of course, there are differences in the style of dribbles between the two, but the end result is often the same.

The 21-year-old is right to let others make those comparisons as he becomes one of the first names on the team sheet. Lampard is the one man whoseopinion really counts and he gave his warmest endorsement of Pulisic's talents so far after the Watford win.

"I didn’t have any exact expectations for him," Lampard told reporters on Zoom after the win. "When he came at the start of the season, he needed a break and he had to get himself acclimatised to the league, it is physical and it is tough for some of the greatest players we have seen in this league from the beginning.

"He got to grips with it quickly and he is playing very well. He got injured at the start of Januarybut now he looks sharp and hungry. The quality is there for everyone to see at the moment.

Beyond Pulisic, Lampard's side had a near-perfect night, easing to victory over a relegation candidate after losing four of the last five games against teams in the bottom four.

These games haven't had the control and composure that Lampard has desired but along with Willian and Pulisic, Olivier Giroud linked well to make a clear favoured front three to run with in the final weeks of the season.

Just like Willian, Giroud had a special connection to Hazard which is now blossoming in Pulisic's game.

The front line was firing, but the clean sheet was essential for Lampard after the 3-2 defeat away at West Ham which led him to drop several players.

Marcos Alonso, Antonio Rudiger and Tammy Abraham all came out of his starting line-up for a refresh which saw people like Kurt Zouma make a statement for his continued selection.

In midfield, Lampard has two No 8s who are a threat and sharp in Mount and Ross Barkley. The latter made it 3-0 with a late strike to deliver the scoreline that his side's dominance deserved.

The only mark on the win was the injury to N'Golo Kante in the 78th-minute, leaving him doubtful for trips to both Crystal Palace and Sheffield United in the next week.

Chelsea will hope that West Ham was just a blip, with Manchester United breathing down their necks in the race to finish in the top four and qualify for next season's Champions League.

There is not much margin for error with Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's side earning victory after victory in the league, while Leicester City and Wolves maintain their challenge.

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