Football Features

“The Star Spangled Man with a plan” – Five things learned as Chelsea ease past Burnley

By Muhammad Butt

Published: 19:44, 26 October 2019

In a stunning evening of football, Chelsea blew Burnley away 2-4 at Turf Moor.

Christian Pulisic stole the show with an incredible perfect hat-trick to sink the Clarets. What did we learn?

1. The Star Spangled Man with a plan!

Captain America Christian Pulisic has been made to wait to really get a go in Chelsea’s first team. He signed in January 2019 but had to wait six months on loan back at Dortmund. Then after a brief flash in the spotlight Pulisic had to wait on the Chelsea bench. He waited and waited, almost like Steve Rogers did when stuck in the ice for all those years.

Pulisic, like Rogers, is a bit of a throwback in that he is a high-profile high-talent young player who can be frustratingly bad. And not in a way where there’s an obvious flaw in his game, just in the way that all young players usually are. In the modern era of Mbappés, Sanchos and De Ligts, that’s refreshing. And, like Rogers, he has now been unleashed on the world.

Of course Pulisic isn’t a superhuman with unrivalled athletic and technical ability after being given a super serum by a German doctor in the 1940s, although if you watched his goals against Burnley that’s as good a reason as any for how he made a defence as solid as the Clarets look so uniformly terrible. Pulisic ran through the Burnley back-line like they were the SHIELD Strike team and Turf Moor was a glass elevator.

The way Pulisic pounced on Lowton’s weakness before absolutely deading James Tarkowski with a body swerve – there’s something fitting about Captain America wrecking someone called Tarkowski (i.e. Tarkovsky) given the discourse around Marvel this week – and then burying the needle would have been impressive enough. It really would have been all we needed, but Pulisic gave us more.

In true Captain America fashion he made use of a kind deflection to score his second and then he sealed his hat-trick by using his head (classic Steve Rogers). A perfect hat-trick, the first Chelsea have scored since 2010, and he’s the youngest Blues player to bag a treble too. Christian Pulisic showed today that for all the quality in this young Chelsea side, no one can match the magnificence and impressive skills of this young American hero.

2. Barnes fluffs his lines

Every superhero origin story needs a villain, and on Saturday evening Pulisic went face-to-face with the colossal Ashley Barnes. Built and with the kind of bruising reputation you’d expect from the heavy in any good superhero story, Barnes is a menace. And like any good villain, he had the chance to sink Pulisic in the first half but he kept on fluffing his lines.

It was mere moments after Pulisic had given Chelsea the lead that Barnes was released into the box in the right half-space with a great chance to either shoot or cross, he did neither and instead fell over. After that he had two sitters that should have buried the Blues before Pulisic’s second goal and he missed both headers.

3. Jorginho keeps it ticking

All good superheroes need a sidekick, someone to provide invaluable assistance without ever taking the spotlight. At Chelsea there are many, many people who could take that role but none are more deserving than Jorginho. The Italian international really struggled to be accepted during his first season in England despite some downright gaudy passing stats, but now under Frank Lampard he is finally able to enjoy himself without the ceaseless criticism of pundits.

Against Burnley it was the same as it ever was for Jorginho. A precision display of passing to keep the team constantly in motion and hard to pin down. Jorginho played 95 passes at a stunning 93.7% accuracy – 38 of which came in Chelsea’s half (with an astonishing 92.1% completed) and was an unstoppable metronome. If anyone is Steve Rogers’ Bucky Barnes (or Sam Wilson) it’s this brilliant midfielder.

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4. Willian plays his part

Ever superhero needs a best friend, someone who can relate to what he’s doing and even help out. Willian has had his struggles at Chelsea, where he didn’t get along with his coach or get into the side as much as he wanted, but he never stopped giving up. And against Burnley he not only bagged an assist but he scored Chelsea’s fourth goal.

And alright at the time that seemed like gloss and nothing else. But then Burnley came back into the match with two storming strikes, and suddenly Willian’s goal was massive. Imagine Burnley pull it back to 2-3 instead of 2-4? Nerves would have really been firing, but with Willian bagging number four, even Burnley’s big comeback counted for nothing.

5. Lampard the mastermind

Every superhero is created by artists, and then nurtured throughout their lifespan by other artists. This is just like the way footballers rely on their coaches to truly show their skills. Steve Rogers was created in 1941 by Jack Kirby and Joe Simon but it wasn’t until his introduction to the Marvel Cinematic Universe in 2011 under Kevin Feige that he really entered the popular consciousness as an iconic hero.

Christian Pulisic was born in 1998 and debuted for Borussia Dortmund in 2015, but it wasn’t until his 2019 hat-trick with Chelsea – the first treble of his senior career – that the world outside America really stood up and took notice (which is mostly a function of the power of the Premier League’s hype machine, but still). And for that Frank Lampard has to take a massive amount of credit.

The Englishman took over a Chelsea side devoid of hope, really. And it would have been very easy for him to side his one star signing so hard, relying on Pulisic to distract people from Chelsea’s struggles. Instead Lampard withdrew Pulisic from the firing line and allowed him to adapt to the country, club and his team-mates. Then introduced him with two wonderful cameos off the bench before unleashing him from the start against Burnley and reaping the dividends.