Borussia Dortmund have had high hopes for Christian Pulisic this season, as he was one of the team’s shining stars despite an underwhelming 2017/18 season. In Dortmund’s last two games, his presence was vital as he scored two important late goals. One the winner against Club Brugge in the Champions League and one the equalizer against Hoffenheim to secure a precious point. So with his form seemingly good, how well has he actually performed, why, and how much better can he get going forward?
Dribbles/Key Passes per game/Shots per game: 2.7/1.3/1
Total Minutes Played: 188
*statistics provided by whoscored.com and undertsat.com
Pulisic Inside Lucien Favre’s System:
The playing system Lucien Favre has brought to Dortmund has wielded sufficient results so far. He has set-up the team to be defensively sound, therefore the team tend to be very conservative in possession. That’s not to say that Dortmund spend their games on the back foot…rather, they need too improve their decision-making in possession to create more chances, while maintaining defensive balance. In the 3 games that Pulisic has featured in this season, Borussia Dortmund have scored six goals, two from set-pieces and four from open-play. Three of those four goals, came when Dortmund’s opponents defended deep in a low-block. Those three goals, came from excellent passing sequences and clever movements by the players. Two of those moves were finished by Pulisic. So if 50% of their goals were scored like this when Pulisic was on the pitch, how does it relate to his performances?
Pulisic has provided true width down the right flank, and his pace and skill have been vital to pinning back opponents and stretching their defense. However if Dortmund want to be more efficient in attack, they will need to improve elements of their possession game. Pulisic thrived under Thomas Tuchel’s positional, attacking system because his skill and pace was supported by the unselfish and fluid movement of his teammates. A lot of space was created for players like him and Ousmane Dembele to flourish in wide positions. It is very likely that Dortmund will face several opponents who will cede possession and defend very deep, closing down space in advanced areas. This is where the need for intelligent positional attacking becomes necessary. Because of this need, Favre needs to settle on a structure(4-3-3/4-2-3-1) and get his best players developing relationships with each other by playing regularly. This would benefit the team as they would become more dominant in possession and allow Pulisic a system in which he can create chances and score goals regularly.
A switch to a more positional attacking system however would require an adjustment in the way Dortmund defended, which is unlikely to happen. And thus it’ll be interesting to see how Dortmund’s attack functions, performs and evolves throughout the season. I don’t see Christian Pulisic benefiting greatly from Dortmund’s current attacking set-up(higher goals and assists return than last season). However it’s too early to predict how he or Dortmund will perform with absolute certainty. One thing I can say with certainty, is that Lucien Favre definitely has the ability to mould a more efficient attack without compromising the defensive stability he so highly values. It’ll just be interesting to see what solutions he comes up with.