Oh, hi. Didn’t see you there.
How you doing? You okay there buddy? It’s all good. Relax. Take a couple of deep breaths. I know, I know. It’s crazy. You’re angry. And that anger is entitled. Eden Hazard is one of the greatest players to ever put on the Chelsea shirt. Christian Pulisic is just some upstart who’s done ‘some’ okay ‘things’ at notorious Bundesliga bottlers Borussia Dortmund.
They’re not in the same league (both metaphorically and probably literally, despite Chris’ best wishes), and never will be. Hell, as was confirmed on Wednesday, Dortmund have effectively replaced Pulisic with Hazard’s beta of a brother, Thorgan.
But sit back, breathe, smile, and see why you might be wrong (I know, it’s a strange concept). See why Pulisic could in fact be a more than capable replacement for Hazard at Stamford Bridge. Why he could in fact be an improvement. Blasphemous, I know. Heresy. Punishable by death via twitter wrath and everything.
But hear me out.
First of all, the guy’s American. That’s, like, a way better country than Belgium. Hah, Belgium. What have they done? Pathetic. I mean, sure, their football team is factually the best in the world according to FIFA, but how about you back that up with a trophy, lads? Yeh, thought so. #Owned.
Pulisic is also born in Hershey, Pennsylvania. Yeh, that Hershey. The one with all the chocolate. What cocoa-related exploits can Belgium lay claim to? LOL. #Amateurs.
Right, now that that #roasting is over, let’s get serious. All of the aforementioned was indeed a joke.
Let’s talk pre-west London development. Fine, I’ll concede that, before joining the Blues, the Belgian prodigy had already notched 50 goals and 53 assists for Lille, which is, well, quite a bit more than the 19 and 23 that Pulisic has managed.
But that’s with one more year under his belt and one more season cut in his teeth. And that final year was instrumental in boosting those stats, for, with 22 goals and 22 assists, they accounted for 44% and 41.5% of those totals respectively. So, if we scratch that spectacular season from the record, his tally becomes far more comparable – 28 to 19 goals and 31 to 23 assists.
Still feel like that’s slanted? Well, then take into account that Hazard had accrued 13,752 minutes in that time, while Pulisic was restricted to just 7,495, and then consider that the majority of those former minutes came in France’s famed ‘farmer’s league’, Ligue 1, while the latter’s came in the ultra-competitive haunts of the Bundesliga.
Indeed, taking into consideration solely the highly pressurised cylinders of Champions League football, Pulisic outranks his adversary comfortably in goals (two to zero), assists (three to two) and minutes (1428 to 540). So, he’s played extensively at the highest level, and he’s acquitted himself well.
The positive comparisons don’t stop there. In fact, as per twitter user ‘ChelseaYannick’, even in a season such as 2018/19, where the emergence of Jadon Sancho meant he was limited to just nine league starts, he still managed a greater goal contribution per minute ratio (every 115 minutes) than Sadio Mane (every 134 minutes), the man who effectively kept Hazard out of the PFA Team of the Year.
Huh. Not bad.
But, no matter how many times they (you know, the Man) tell you it is, football isn’t all about goal contributions. Even in these stat-heavy, oooh-I’ve-read-‘Moneyball’ times, there remains some footballing intangibles. For example, magical moments – save for measuring the social media reach of said clips – are a hard thing to quantify, but one would imagine Eden Hazard ranking fairly high in this fictionalised table.
Hazard has also grown into one of the great on-field leaders at Stamford Bridge, displaying his ability to haul the team on his back time and time and time again. He has been asked to cope with being the team’s unquestioned best player and thrived in that role.
In contrast, Pulisic has no such experience of such things – OH WAIT. Of course he f***ing does. He’s had it all his life. As the only decent player ever to even look at the USMNT shirt (yeah, that’s right Landon Donovan, have some of that — actually, wait, apart from Clint Dempsey…I don’t want to incur the wrath of ‘Deuce‘) Pulisic has carried this burden since he was a toddler, in one of the most pressurised sporting countries in the world.
Seriously, this is the place where Jozy Altidore was touted as a game-changer, so imagine what the pressure they heaped on a kid who was starting for the second best team in Germany.
Hell, look at the pressure we put on Sancho, then imagine Jozy Altidore was the previous benchmark. That’s the level of pressure we’re talking about.
So, to conclude this ludicrously hot-takeist but actually not completely unfounded argument, Pulisic may not be Hazard right now. He may not be Hazard in two years. But he has all the tools and experience at his disposal to replicate the Belgian’s rise and, with the right development and people around him, he could feasibly surpass him.
There. It’s over. Well done. Don’t @ me.