There was a wild Pulisic sighting in St. Mary’s!
The 21-year-old came on in the 80th minute for his first Premier League action since August 31. Four minutes later his ex-Dortmund teammate Michy Batshuayi entered the fray, and five minutes after that, they were celebrating a wonderfully crafted goal to make it 4-1.
Such immediate impact breathed kerosene fumes onto the fire of fans who have been upset at Pulisic’s lengthy absence from the first team (bar a trot out against Grimsby Town).
Pulisic himself is trying to manage acclimation, expectation, critique and criticism, and fitting into — and getting into — a new and very talented team.
“You can’t completely ignore it. I don’t live under a rock. I hear things, I see things, but I do my best to block it out. I’m just working hard for myself. The outside opinions don’t matter as much to me as to what’s in the team, myself and the people who care about me. I’m just going to keep working and do my best and not worry about it.”
One fun and very unfair thing that’s done to players moving for large fees is that the price tag becomes a branding of sort, and from day one you’re expected to show your full worth. But that minimizes market value, team construct, and a host of other things that would make this piece very long.
“This number [£58m] doesn’t mean anything to me. Obviously, I go out and try to give my best every time I’m on the pitch. I’m not sure what the price tag means to you, but I just have to keep trying to perform at my best for myself and for the team.”
It’s easy to be upset at a malfunctioning expensive toaster, but players, coincidentally, are not toasters. Using the price tag as the starting, and ending, point for analysis ignores a lot of other much more pertinent context.
Lampard has told everyone to “calm down” about Pulisic’s recent shutting out from the first team, and has said Christian is still acclimating to all things London and training at Chelsea.
“Culture-wise, it’s been easier than Germany [to settle in], to be honest. From the football side, I guess you could say that [it has been more difficult]. Obviously, I haven’t been getting as many minutes as I would like. I will just keep going, keep pushing. I know my time’s going to come”
“I’m not just going to throw a fit and give up ever, so if I’m on the bench it doesn’t mean the gaffer doesn’t think I’m a part of the team, I’ve just got to keep pushing and earn my spot.
“[The manager] likes players who work very hard and show a lot in training and I just have to continue to do that, do my best in training and try to learn my position.”
–Christian Pulisic; source: Evening Standard
The training bit is the most interesting, because surely that’s the step-up that’s been toughest to deal with. Lampard says if you train well you get into the team, and we don’t have to look any further than Fikayo Tomori, who has been starting since the Sheffield United match, and Callum Hudson-Odoi, who signed a new contract and went straight into the first team.
Some valuable insight into the latter’s situation and training habits was dropped by chatterbox former backup goalkeeper Rob Green, most recently on BBC Radio 5 Live Sport.
“We were in the dressing room last season and the players said ‘How is he not playing?’ He’s going out in training and tearing some of the best defenders in the world apart. … He would be the best, consistently the best trainer in training. To the point where the best players in the world were standing there applauding what he was doing in training.”
–Rob Green; source: BBC Radio 5 Live Sport
Of course the youth revolution should have in its sights players like Willian and Pedro, not Callum Hudson-Odoi, but that’s at least a glimpse into the truth of Lampard’s promise. If you train better than other players, you play.
Even though we’re now at the second international break, the season is still young and Chelsea — unlike Spurs — are still in all competitions. The path Pulisic has selected — to keep his head down, train hard, and make the most of his opportunities when they’re given — is the correct one. If he continues in that vein his time will surely come, and it will only be a matter of time before we see "Pulassists" on a far more regular basis. (Ed.note: it's definitely "Pulissists".)