Should Pulisic play the No. 10 for Milan?


Christian Pulisic of AC Milan during the UEFA Europa League 2023/24 Quarter-Final second leg match between AS Roma and AC Milan at Stadio Olimpico on April 18, 2024 in Rome, Italy. 

Christian Pulisic is having probably the best season of his career so far, and a lot has to do with how AC Milan coach Stefano Pioli is using him on the pitch. Pulisic already played in multiple positions on the attacking line, but where does he fit best? Pioli is now thinking of changing the role of U.S. men's national team star. 

The Italian manager is now considering lining up Pulisic as a No. 10 behind striker Olivier Giroud with both Rafael Leao and Samuel Chukwueze playing on the attacking wings in his ideal starting XI. Following the Europa League exit to Roma on Thursday in the quarterfinals, it wouldn't be all that surprising to see the lineup tinkered with sooner rather than later. 

Pulisic has been the best player of the season so far for AC Milan, already scoring 13 goals in 43 games in all competitions and also played in multiple positions of the attacking line. He mainly played as a right winger, occasionally played on the left when Rafael Leao wasn't available and only once as a No. 10 against Lecce on April 6, when he also scored the opening goal of the match. 

Here's how it's gone:

Right winger

Games played: 38

Goals: 11

Assists: 6

The position he played most this season so far. This is where he's most comfortable and where he delivered the most, with 11 goals scored and six assists in 37 games. While Pulisic can adapt to multiple positions, this is the only role for Chukwueze. To have both of them in the lineup, Pulisic would need to move to the center or on the left wing (when Leao doesn't play).

Left winger

Games played: 5

Goals: 1

Assists: 2

When Leao is not available, this is where Pulisic can also play. He played five games so far this season and scored one goal already against Cagliari away. AC Milan signed the American international also for this particular reason, to have a player who can replace Leao when he's not fit or available. Pulisic, also in this case, delivered. 

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Attacking midfielder 

Games played: 1

Goals: 1

Assists: 0

There are a lot of reasons to think that shifting his position to become an attacking midfielder behind the main striker can be a good idea. Pulisic showed that he can easily adapt to multiple tactical systems at AC Milan under Pioli and was able to keep the level of his performances throughout the season, unlike some of his teammates. 

Leao has been quite inconsistent in the first part of the season but managed to be back at his usual level in the past weeks, while Chukwueze didn't have the impact we expected in his first season at the club. 

When Pulisic arrived at AC Milan in the summer of 2023 from Chelsea, there were some questions regarding his involvement in the team, since Chukwueze was expected to be the starter on the right attacking wing, and Pulisic could become an option to replace Leao or Chukwueze himself in the rotations of the manager. 

The USMNT star quickly became a starter on the right side and never really lost his crucial role in that position. For this reason, the supposition to see him as a number ten behind the main striker never became a reality over the season. 

However, some things changed on April 6, when Pulisic played in that position behind French striker Olivier Giroud, and with both Chukwueze and Leao on the wings. 

The test went really well, as he opened the scoring after six minutes, and the possibility to see him more in that position of the team increased over the last days. 

Pulisic scored his 13th goal of the season against Lecce and became the second US international with 10 league goals in a season in the top four European leagues, joining Clint Dempsey who did it twice during the 2011-12 season (17 goals) and during the 2010-11 season (12 goals).

A shift in his position on the pitch changes some tactical aspects for both Pulisic himself and the whole team. 

The USMNT star needs to be much more central also when it comes to defending and will coordinate more with midfielders like Ruben Loftus-Cheek who can occasionally swap his position with Pulisic. 

However, the game played against Lecce clearly showed that he's ready to play in that position without changing the balance of the team and this is probably what's next for him at AC Milan. 

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