What Christian Pulisic’s injury woes mean for Chelsea, Tammy Abraham and Callum Hudson-Odoi

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Frank Lampard has one of the best group of attacking talent in the Premier League and is one of the few managers who won’t be worried by one or two injuries up front

Chelsea have an embarrassment of attacking riches at their disposal following a hugely productive summer transfer window which saw three attack-minded stars join the ranks at Stamford Bridge.

It is inevitably taking boss Frank Lampard some time to fall upon a system and attacking shape that works best for the Blues and gets the most out of their forward players.

Last season, Christian Pulisic burst onto the scene at the club with his dynamism, directness, skill and incisiveness in the final third of the pitch. He got into double figures for goals – a particularly impressive figure as his participation was limited by injuries, limiting him to starting just half of the Premier League games.

Pulisic is a versatile player who is capable of playing in a fluid attacking system, but his success last season came on the left of a front three which often had one of Tammy Abraham or Olivier Giroud in the middle and Willian on the right.

Much has changed this campaign with Willian now at Arsenal and both Giroud and Abraham also having to contend with the arrival of Timo Werner, while Kai Havertz and Hakim Ziyech are also being integrated into an attacking system. Then there are the contributions of Mason Mount and Callum Hudson-Odoi to factor in.

Not only has it been a question of finding the right combination of playing personnel – several signings were not made with a long-term vision or strategy in place, but rather as the players represented unique market opportunities – but also finding the right shape.

As per Whoscored.com, a 4-2-3-1 has been used four times this season, while 3-4-1-2 and 4-2-2-2 have also been deployed by Lampard. However, they have slowly reverted back to their 4-3-3 shape which was preferred last season – which has been started on five occasions, including in the comfortable victory over Sheffield United last time out.

That would theoretically have suited Pulisic in a similar shape to last season, but his injury problems and the form of others mean that it is not that straightforward. Indeed, his only start this campaign in the Premier League was the 3-3 draw with Southampton – when he started on the right of the trio behind a central striker in a 4-2-3-1.

It is likely that Lampard will initially stick with the 4-3-3 going forwards as it primarily accommodates three players who appear to be in the strongest form: Werner on the left, Ziyech cutting in from the right and Abraham occupying the central position.

This has also seen Mount getting starts, although this is done as the frontal figure of a midfield three – usually ahead of N’Golo Kante and Mateo Kovacic. Along with the attacking full-backs of Reece James and Ben Chilwell, there are multiple attacking threats on the pitch at once.

However, this leaves a question mark over Havertz for whom there is much fanfare although the German maestro has yet to find his feet at the Blues. Theoretically, his most comfortable position in this system would be directly replacing Mount. This is a managerial headache for Lampard, who trusts Mount and is unlikely to drop from his starting XI.

The absence of Pulisic has primarily opened up the two wide attacking positions for Ziyech and Werner, but most significantly it has given greater opportunities for Abraham. The consensus was that German hitman Werner would be used in a central attacking position, where he has thrived for his nation and at RB Leipzig.

He is versatile and impresses coming in from the left too, although Pulisic may have been selected in this position to accommodate the German centrally and meaning Abraham missed out entirely. Abraham netted in the wins over Rennes and Sheffield United before a call-up to the England squad, showing that his fortunes have notably been boosted.

Another beneficiary may well be Hudson-Odoi, who the club resisted interest from Bayern Munich for this summer as they saw his potential as a first-team star at the club. Just as with Abraham, he must battle for his place ahead of the illustrious array of attacking additions, but this should not be ruled out.

The 20-year-old is, like Pulisic, comfortable on playing either side of a front three and a 4-3-3 formation is one well-suited to him.

Whilst Hudson-Odoi has started just one Premier League game to date, he is primed to be used in a rotation system and to feature prominently as a substitute, particularly in such a jam-packed fixture schedule.

Pulisic’s injury issues are not ideal for Chelsea but there are no shortage of replacements to choose from, with two of the club’s youth products best placed to fill the breach.


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