The development of wide players becoming more prolific goalscorers in the Premier League certainly has taken centre stage with Liverpool and Manchester City’s success since 2015.
Several wingers are proving to be reliable goalscorers rather than mere providers for more traditional centre-forwards.
The use of Roberto Firmino taking up a more selfless role in order to facilitate the space necessary for both Mohamed Salah and Sadio Mane is probably the most obvious example.
But at The Etihad, the output from Raheem Sterling has been equally astonishing under Pep Guardiola. 123 goals in 320 appearances for the Citizens since his 2015 signing reflects his brilliance.
The brilliance of Sterling’s finishing is the simplicity of them.
Under Guardiola, it is a common sight that the English winger is perfectly placed to round off a flowing passing move, comfortably tapping the ball into the net from close range.
Part of that is down to the fluidity and effectiveness of Guardiola’s system but also down to the intelligent movement and anticipation of Sterling. Something which the winger showed for England last summer.
Chelsea has been desperately trying to recreate the productivity of their rivals, ploughing tons into attacking signings since 2019, which still has not found the solution.
The first signing in that spend which has toppled £300m, was Christian Pulisic from Borussia Dortmund for £58m.
Pulisic’s injury issues since his arrival have been well documented, which has halted promising spells.
But one of the American’s strongest attributes has been his sense of anticipation inside the six-yard box and finishing chances.
Just breaking down the numbers of Pulisic whilst actually on the pitch, his strongest trait comes to light.
20 goals in 96 appearances is probably a surprising number given the amount of time he has spent recovering from injuries.
All three of his goals this season have come in the Premier League from 745 minutes in total, which rounds out at 251 minutes per goal.
The problem for Pulisic is perception.
Given that he “replaced” Eden Hazard on the left of Chelsea’s attack in 2019 and has a similar physical frame, people can expect a similar output as the Belgian produced.
But the 23-year-old is more of a finisher than a creator, via FBRef, his total xA (Expected Assists) in the Premier League since joining Chelsea is around seven.
Whilst his xG of around 15 proves he has slightly outperformed expectation with 16. All of his Chelsea goals have come inside the box – a trademark being him running in at the back post to meet a cross.
Given this squad also lacks clinical finishers, arguably Pulisic is one of the more natural ones in Tuchel’s current attack.
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But too often, Pulisic, maybe by his own doing, drops deeper and tries to take on the opposition.
On his best days, the winger will dribble past players for fun and look like one of the best in world football. But these moments of genius are scarce.
Streamlining Pulisic’s game for him to focus on finishing chances and simply becoming a poacher inside the box could turn him into a very dangerous player.
Chelsea is in desperate need of consistent productivity from their expensive attack. Pulisic feels like one player who could produce that.
But a straightforward tweak is required first. If not, it won’t be a shock to see him sold this summer.
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