Prospecting The Prospects: Christian Pulisic

Our “prospecting the prospects” series returns for 2019-20!

This is where we run the rule over the of FPL prospects of some who will enter the game next season. This series analyses a selection of these newcomers to the FPL game by simulating how they would have performed using last season’s stats (wherever they played) as if they had been in FPL, then providing our evaluation of the player as an asset ahead of the coming period.

We’ve already done Daniel James, Teemu Pukki, Jack Grealish, Pablo Fornals and Che Adams so far this season, with many more to come.

On 2nd January, it was announced that 20-year-old American winger Christian Pulisic would be signing for Chelsea. He reportedly was acquired from German club Borussia Dortmund for a fee of €64 million, and spent the second half of last season on loan with the Bundesliga runners-up before finally moving to London in May:

With Pulisic perhaps due to take over the mantle of “key man” from the departed Eden Hazard, and representing the first Proper Big Money move of the summer (in essence rather than practically), he’s definitely worth using past records to find out how good he is.

There is an issue, though, in that he actually only started 9 games in 2018/19, which means we’re forced to look at 2017/18, when he was a precocious 18-year-old, to run our analysis. We’re also using transfermarkt this time for match analysis as WhoScored don’t offer access to historic match performances. FFS data is used in the evaluation.

Appearances: 26 appearances + 6 under 60 minutes = 52 points

Goals: 4 goals (4×5) = 20 points

Assists: 6 assists (6×3) = 18 points

Clean Sheets: 8 cs = 8 points

Disciplinary: 1 yellow card = -1 points

Raw point total: 103

Bonus (n.b. skippable – just a record to show I haven’t made it up)

To give an estimation of the bonus points he would have got, we’ve reviewed the games he would have delivered points in to come to a rough number.

We’ve done this by researching match performance and allocating probable bonus depending on how well he did.

Attacking contributions:

8th Sept – 3-0 W, Wolfsburg; scored a goal and supplied an assist for 3

20th Sept – 3-0 W over Hamburg; scored 3rd goal and had the best rating on Transfermarkt, maybe in running for 2

16th Dec – 2-1 Win v Hoffenheim, scored winner and was star man, 3

2nd Feb – 3-2 Win v FC Koln, assisted Michy Batshuayi’s brace to make it 2-1; Batshuayi and Fulham legend Andre Schuurle performed well, but played well too so maybe nabbed 1

10th Feb – 2-0 victory over HSV, assisted another Batshuayi goal, but good performances 0

11th March – 3-2 win v Frankfurt, assisted an own goal, and also Batshuayi who went on to score another brace. Likely 2

8th April – 3-0 win v Stuttgart, scored the opener and man of the match 3

21st April, 4-0 win v Leverkusen, assisted Sancho’s opener but a further 2 assist for the Englishman, Reus goal and assist and other good performances elsewhere mean 0

Guesstimated bonus from G/A: 14

Scores on the doors

That makes 117 points for Pulisic’s season, which corresponds to a score of 3.7 points per game (for the 32 appearances).

Scaling this to the Premier League’s 38 games, that equates to a total of 141 points.

That’s in the top 30 overall, 2 points above Jota.

Evaluation

With 9 games and 11 sub appearances in the Bundesliga last season, he’ll definitely need some time to re-orient himself toward playing regularly after being supplanted by Jadon Sancho most of last term and used as an impact sub.

This means we’ve based our analysis on a fuller season in 2017/18. Impact sub data looks different and can have a distorting impact on the overall set: think playing versus tired legs etc.

Nonetheless, he’s a richly talented young footballer, primarily fielded on the right by Dortmund but capable of operating on either flank, it actually caused me to do a double take when I saw he was just 20.

One stat leaps out when looking at Pulisic which underlines why he’s been bought to perhaps replace Hazard: he attempted an astonishing 182 take-ons in 2017/18, successful in 77 of them. That low success rate maybe shows how he’s still got a lot to learn, but the Belgian maestro completed an astonishing 137 dribbles in his final season for Chelsea (45 more than his nearest competitor), showing just what Pulisic has to aim for. Then priced at 9.5, Hazard moved from Lille in the 2012/13 season and instantly became an FPL darling, scoring 190 points through 9 goals and 16 assists in his maiden campaign – these are big boots to fill, and if Pulisic scored that we’d all be very happy.

However, Pulisic has a strange stats profile. He’s neither prolific in terms of producing chances nor taking shots, which is something we may have to bear in mind as we observe him this year. His numbers suggest he prefers to cycle possession rather than take a shot or try a killer pass if he feels it’s not on: of his 38 shots, 25 were in the box, and he created just 32 chances (less than 1 per game if counting just full appearances).  His tally in 2017/18 wasn’t a significant underperformance, either, as understat shows his xG of 5.48 and xA of 5.33 not far from his actual 4 goal, 6 assist output. To step up to be the new Hazard, he’ll need to supercharge his end product, and quickly.

Angling from the dribbling stat in the first instance, though, Felipe Anderson comes to the fore as a potential comparator, with the Brazilian fielded primarily on the wing last season and shifting between a creator and shooter (and troll, to the chagrin of many). At an initial price of 7.0, Felipe scored 155 points from 9 goals and 6 assists last campaign. He had an equivalent number of successful dribbles to Pulisic 2 seasons ago, a similar number of shots in the box (31 to 25) although he far excelled the American’s chance creation with 64 over last season – double Pulisic’s. Would 155 be a return we’d accept?

Well, probably yes. Looking more into similar sorts of assets around the price tag we’d anticipate, with my guess being a 8.5-9.5 for the American, Leroy Sane seems a good comparator. The mercurial winger was in and out of City’s side depending on Pep’s goodbooks throughout the 2018/19 campaign, and managed 156 points from 10 goals and 12 assists in the equivalent of ~21 games (min played/90). Sane also likes to take on his man, with 56 successful dribbles last year, alongside 36 shots in the box and 40 chances created. Given Pulisic’s starting point, it’s not unfeasible to expect him to match that provided he settles down quickly. A point against Pusilic may be his youth and a system in flux with the departure of Maurizio Sarri: this was also true of Sane, who only managed 105 points from 5 goals and 7 assists in his first season, but priced at a very kind 7.5m.

A final comparator is Pulisic’s new club mate Willian. Hairy Willi didn’t have a good time of it this year, barely getting over 100, but in the past has been a decent creative force for Chelsea. In 2017/18, the same year we’ve assessed Pulisic for, he scored 130 points from 6 goals and 8 assists. He also performed 67 successful dribbles (10 less than Pulisic), 29 shots in the box (4 more) but created a whopping 61 chances (almost double Pulisic). Nonetheless, the outputs never matched the stats with Willian being one of those players who sometimes threatens a bandwagon but never quite gets one going. But with a similar xG and xA profile to Pulisic, Willian’s output from similar stats is perhaps a cautionary tale – if the American is to work out at Chelsea, he’ll need to locate some end product to not be a perennial nearly man like his new Brazilian team mate.

Pulisic comes in at 7.5m in FPL this season, which is definitely an intriguing price point given Chelsea’s good opening fixtures; they only play two top 6 sides (United opening day, and Liverpool in Gameweek 6) in their opening 10 games.

Overall, Pulisic will need time to adjust to his new surroundings, though his inclusion through preseason can only bolster any interest we have in him – provided the rest of his Club AH (after Hazard) can be sorted out. It’ll depend on his price, and also on how well he looks to have integrated at Chelsea, before we’re able to make a real judgement. He does look a player, and there’s been a lot of hype from afar – it’s just whether he’ll be able to effectively replace Hazard and produce consistently from the get-go which I’m not too sure on currently.

Overall rating: 3 / 5 – An above average prospect for FPL**derived from a completely subjective scale from 1-5, where 1 is bad and 5 is excellent

Disclaimer: we thoroughly accept this system of evaluating players isn’t flawless. Predicting how well a player will do is an inexact science, and there are many ways to do it. However, we feel that it’s a nice approach to getting a feel for how a player might do in FPL.