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Captain America, Between Enemy Lines - starring Christian Pulisic

A couple of ex-Leverkusen central midfielders started a scouting and player analysis framework called [ ](Impect) ...

A couple of ex-Leverkusen central midfielders started a scouting and player analysis framework called [](Impect) - which is used by a couple of top-flight clubs in Germany to identify talent. The "packing" model as it's called, arises from the idea that when a defender is beaten by an opponent, through passing/dribbling, “he is packed – no longer involved in the play.” Put simply, Packing answers one basic question: are there fewer defending players between the ball and the goal than before the action(pass/dribble) took place?

The Impect results for Pulisic circa 2016/17 show that going forward he was rated at 43% (packing), slightly below average but 82% defensively. Which makes sense seeing as Thomas Tuchel had mostly utilised him for "defensive interventions high up the pitch", i.e high/counter-pressing. He was Tuchel's Willian so to speak. But that doesn't explain his 9 Goals+Assists that season because to receive a higher pack score you have to be "good at bypassing defenders with killer passes, making deep runs to bypass defenders as a receiver or taking up good positions between the lines to bypass players as a receiver". So how come Pulisic, a right-winger, is still creating & being dangerous in the final 3rd without beating any defenders?

The following 2 seasons were very difficult for Pulisic, after a superb start which featured 6 wins out of 7, what followed were a couple of painful defeats that saw manager Peter Bosz sacked and the more conservative Peter Stöger brought in to steady the ship but at the expense of high pressing & fluidity in attack. With half the squad either dipped (in form) or injured they ended the season with 55 points scoring 64 goals and barely finishing top-4. Couple that with the devastating, confidence hit, that came with the USA failing to qualify for the 2018 world-cup, new manager Luciano Favre dropping Pulisic for an in form Jadon Sancho and it was clear as daylight, the Captain America A Bavarian Villain was just another box-office flop.

But for some inexplicable reason, at least to most of us, Marina Granovskia went out and splashed £58m because she can, or maybe there's a good reason why she's one of the games best negotiators and probably knows more football than all your pub 5-aside buddies combined. But just like every Marvel movie, there's always the first couple 45 minutes where your favourite character takes a couple good Ls and for Captain America this time, those Ls came in the form of defensive-cover at RW in good'ol English Premier League and getting his arse handed to him by a couple blacksmiths from League 2.

So here's the official trailer: Fury James Lampard OBE decides he's had enough banter so he calls his Asgardian mate Thor Borges da Silva fresh from a baptism of lightning to bring some thunder at RW while Captain America sees a therapist at Wakobham General. But before Captain America could finish up his rehabilitation, a giant unfriendly tribe from Burnley shows up hoping to steal more Zouma-vibranium xGC, and that's when Captain America ghosting in the area and in between enemy lines was born. Check local listing for Captain America Between Enemy Lines, viewer discretion is advised.

So, even though Pulisic was this elusive turbo-start dribbler at Dortmund, he couldn't translate any of that into actual chances or shots (xGChain) and yet his xG per 90 remained relatively unexplained at an elite level for a winger, 0.38 p90, and all it took was for Lampard to recognise that Pulisic may have untapped potential at exploiting spaces in central areas, so by harnessing his world-class close-control dribbling, he could drive the ball infield between the opponents' midfield and backline, invite defenders out creating gaps in behind either for Tammy to run into or for Pulisic to combine with Tammy or an advanced midfielder before exploiting the very space he created in behind and once he gets in the box, his shots are high quality (take a look at his shot map below in the appendix, not many wingers are this capable). So his starting position appears wide, before moving across to finish in the centre, so while everyone including the opponent is convinced Pulisic is a LW, the reality is he's a wide-forward in a David Villa, Griezmann mould.

Griezmann, of course, started out as LW, before turning into a defensive-wide-support-quantum-entangled forward who can be anywhere anytime like spooky action in the middle and final 3rd. Simeone, of course, is the reason why Tony is superior defensively to Pulisic or why he attempts more passing because of the extreme dependency on him to be the creator in an otherwise defensive set up but that doesn't mean Pulisic can't improve his passing, especially timing on release and crossing. From a dribbling point of view, Pulisic is like a demi-god in comparison averaging 2.8 dribbles a game to Griezmann's 0.9 or less per game.

I can only speculate how far Pulisic could go under the tutelage of Frank Lampard, and seeing how far Kovacic, Zouma, Jorginho and everyone else (including Pulisic) have come I can only assume he's only getting better, we could be looking at a 25+ G/A a season 'winger' plus his underlying numbers suggest he's not dipping anytime soon.

Written by - @3rdManRun
Photos by - @usmntonly & statsbomb

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