'Loads more to give!' - USMNT forward Christian Pulisic told to leave Chelsea to better himself as Glen Johnson thinks Blues made a mistake signing £89m replacement Mykhailo Mudryk
The United States international has been at Stamford Bridge since the summer of 2019, with 143 appearances taken in for the Blues while becoming a Champions League, UEFA Super Cup and FIFA Club World Cup winner.
However, Pulisic has rarely been a guaranteed starter during his time in west London and has been included from the off in just eight Premier League games this season.
The USMNT star is now seeing a move elsewhere speculated on, as he approaches the final year of his contract, with Johnson casting an eye over his past, present and future.
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End of the road
Pressed on whether Pulisic has reached the end of the road at Chelsea, former Blues defender Johnson – speaking in association with Lord Ping - told GOAL: “I think he’s a very good footballer, will work his socks off, I think he just needs to play every week. That obviously hasn’t been happening, but I think he’s got loads to give. Whichever team he goes to, he is going to improve that team. I think he has got loads more in the tank, but it’s probably not at Chelsea. He needs to go to a team where he can be the number one name on the sheet every week. That will give him confidence and he can start enjoying his football again. If you’re not playing football, then you’re not enjoying yourself. If he can get back to that, then I think he has got a lot to offer.”
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Why hasn’t it worked?
Pulisic appears to boast all of the attributes required to be a Premier League success story – pace, creativity, energy, finishing ability – with Johnson saying of why it has not worked out for him at Stamford Bridge: “I never played against him but when you watch him, he looks like a nightmare to play against – he’s quick, sharp, over 10 yards he’s rapid. It’s strange. It looks like he thinks about things too much. Sometimes you just need to get on with it and see what happens. You are going to make mistakes, of course you are, but it looks like if he plays a bad game then he will think about it for the next three days. You have got to put that stuff behind you and try to get on with believing in yourself.”
Pulisic is a talismanic presence for his country, but has remained a bit-part figure at Chelsea. Asked if those contrasting standings may have impacted Pulisic, Johnson said: “He’s the big fish when he plays at international level. He’s the main man, then he goes to Chelsea and he’s not. All of a sudden you are with world-class players, you aren’t the big fish in the pond anymore and maybe he doesn’t enjoy it. Maybe he prefers to be a big fish in a smaller pond, I’m not sure. He’s got so much to offer. Everyone says about potential, but that’s only good enough if you deliver at some point. He has got a big 18 months in front of him. If he wants to stay in the Premier League, then he is going to have to deliver on that potential.”
Johnson is not convinced that Chelsea need to sell Pulisic this summer, despite having only 12 months remaining on his deal. He feels the Blues need to alter their approach when it comes to spending – with £89 million ($110m) having been wasted on Ukraine international Mykhailo Mudryk in the January window. Johnson added: “I think he has got more to give. I would much rather work out what is going wrong with him as opposed to signing somebody else for 80m. He is a good player. You are going to sell him now for what, £30m maybe? It’s not even touching the sides of what you have just bought somebody else for, so when you have got good assets you just need to spark them up. I would say that instead of signing Mudryk, for example, I would rather they worked with Pulisic, got him going and then all of a sudden you have got a 60m player.”
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Pulisic’s lack of game time is all the more baffling given that Chelsea have struggled for firepower and attacking spark throughout the 2022-23 campaign. Pressed on why he has not been given a regular run for a team short on goals, Johnson said: “It is odd. When Raheem [Sterling] came to Chelsea he hit the ground running and he looked to be back to his best, but now they have no striker, they can’t score goals. They keep signing all these wingers, but they don’t score either or get assists. You might as well work with what you have got and save the money. It is very strange. I guess the question comes back to, who is actually signing the players? I don’t believe the manager has been signing these players.”
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Change in approach
Todd Boehly has, in the wake of a big-money takeover from 2022, been pulling many of the strings at Chelsea. Some £600m ($741m) has been spent on fresh faces, but the Blues have still worked their way through Thomas Tuchel, Graham Potter and Frank Lampard in the dugout.
Quizzed on whether the seemingly imminent arrival of Mauricio Pochettino as head coach will deliver a change in approach – with the Argentine set to demand greater control over transfer and tactics – Johnson said: “Definitely. With a top manager, part of the deal will be ‘I’ll sign who I need to sign that helps the team’. With a manager like that, he will be like ‘I want player A, B and C, you deliver that and then I’ll deliver you trophies or whatever the objective is’. Owners can’t buy players. Owners are super intelligent and very good at what they do, but you have to know football to find what the team needs. That’s not always as easy as going and signing the best player at the time. You need a player that is going to fit into your dressing room and improve the team.”