Player Analysis: Christian Pulisic Makes Milan an Instant Title Contender

Yes, Christian Pulisic never lived up to his ‎€‎70 million price tag at Chelsea. And yes, his most recent campaign was abysmal, thrown into chaos by inconsistent form and a myriad of injuries. However, Captain America’s arrival at Milan injects much-needed creativity and energy into Stefano Pioli’s system. Because of this and many other reasons, this deal is a lifeline for Milan and should transform the Rossoneri into instant title contenders.

Pulisic Player Profile: The Pros

Let’s start with the good. Pulisic is an incredibly versatile player, with the ability to play on both wings, in the attacking midfield, or as a forward. Once or twice, he even lined up as a wing-back for Chelsea, though he admittedly did little defending.

From all of these positions, Pulisic is a quintessential creative playmaker. He plays a quick, shifty brand of football that couples well with his strong passing ability. Quick turns and sharp cuts are the American’s forte, allowing him to draw in defenders and open space for onrushing teammates. His technical prowess is unique in American football, and it allows him to create chances from restricted positions.

Pulisic’s abilities lend themselves well to tiki-taka-style tactics. When the ball is in the midfield during build-up play, the 24-year-old floats wide and looks to combine with central midfielders. He is adept at finding open space and builds attacks from quick passing and rapid movement.

Lastly, the attacking third is where Pulisic’s game becomes really interesting. Typically, he looks to cut inside with the ball and find diagonal connections with forwards. His quick and effective footwork often unbalances opposing full-backs, allowing him to drive the ball into the box before finding open teammates. Compared to other wingers, Pulisic sends in a minimal number of crosses, preferring to keep his passes grounded.

Some (Possibly) Concerning Cons

However, there are a few reasons why Milan got Pulisic for a €‎50 million discount. Of these, by far the most concerning is his consistency. Pulisic has a tendency to disappear in matches, especially when opponents are sitting deep or pressing hard from a low block. When Chelsea’s offense was restricted enough, Pulisic often found himself ball-watching on the wing, rather than moving into the midfield and demanding the ball.

Another significant problem is Pulisic’s injury history, which ties into his lack of physicality. Over four seasons, the winger has missed a shocking 55 games for Chelsea. He struggles to stay fit, and, when he is on the pitch, he lacks a physical presence. A diminutive and technical player, the American spent little time in the hard-hitting world of US football, and it shows. This facet of his game may be the biggest challenge to his success in Italy, as playing aggressively and absorbing contact are essential against Serie A backlines.

Finally, another issue is his poor finishing ability. While Pulisic did net nine goals in his debut season with Chelsea, he is not a natural finisher. The winger scores roughly five percent of his shots, with the below demonstrating just how poor his eye for goal really is.

In a span of a few minutes, Pulisic missed two point-blank chances against Real Madrid in 2022.

How Does Pulisic Fit into Stefano Pioli’s System?

With Charles De Ketelaere apparently following Brahim Diaz out the door, the American could certainly see time as an attacking midfielder. However, Pulisic is a natural left-winger, and he has experience playing on the right. With Rafael Leao unquestionably holding down the left, it therefore seems likely that Pulisic will start in front of Davide Calabria.

While Alexis Saelemaekers and Junior Messias can provide decent minutes for Milan, Pulisic is simply on another level. On the right wing, he would upgrade Milan’s pace and creativity while overloading the central midfield as needed. With Calabria’s quality crossing ability, the winger should be free to drift centrally, as is his habit.

Now, if Pioli decides to deploy Pulisic as an attacking midfielder, things could get interesting. Since the beginning of his career, the American has made plenty of appearances in the position. His creativity and spatial awareness are top notch, and he understands how to draw in defenders to create space for others.

Pulisic plays similarly to Brahim Diaz, but the American is a much better distributor. He has the ability to identify open space and anticipate the runs of his teammates. Also, while the Spaniard was often shut down by stronger defenders, Pulisic welcomes one-on-ones and instinctively releases the ball as space closes.

Whichever position he takes, Pulisic will be a significant upgrade to the lineup. He is also a natural fit for Pioli’s system, which rewards inside-cutting wingers and creative playmakers.

The Finances Are Just Right

One final aspect that must be recognized is the low-risk nature of this purchase. As previously stated, Milan is getting a €‎50 million discount on Pulisic, while providing the 24-year-old an opportunity to reset his career.

If he is successful, the Rossoneri front office has locked in a world-class player for four key years of his career. And, if another giant comes calling, it won’t be difficult to make a sizable profit for a player of his caliber. There is also the benefit of increasing Milan’s profile abroad, as huge numbers of Americans will surely tune in.

On the other hand, if Pulisic fails, the club will not have wasted a large sum of money. It also wouldn’t be too difficult to offload him to England, Germany, or even the MLS.

Looking at this deal from a bird’s eye view, it is a clear win for Milan. The Rossoneri are adding another creative, high-potential winger at a cheap cost. Pulisic fills a critical gap in the starting eleven, and, while there are more deals to come, this is the one that should spring Milan back into Scudetto contention.