After a solid run in the team during the final days of Frank Lampard, including starts in the former head coach’s last seven Premier League matches in charge, Christian Pulisic has found himself firmly rooted to the bench since Thomas Tuchel’s arrival.
Considering that Pulisic was one of just two players who had worked with Tuchel before, getting his professional debut from him back at Borussia Dortmund in fact, that’s a somewhat surprising development. (Considering Pulisic’s production on the scoresheet so far this season with just 2 goals and 1 assist, perhaps that’s less so.)
That familiarity has perhaps also made it a bit easier for Tuchel to keep Pulisic in reserve, supposedly setting him the role of an impact substitute. And the 22-year-old did just that against Burnley, but otherwise he has not had too many opportunities. Part of that was due to a private family matter causing him to miss the Sheffield United match, but part of that is also that he does not actually appear to be part of Tuchel’s preferred lineups just yet. Can’t spell impact substitute without substitute.
Unlike Tammy Abraham and Kepa Arrizabalaga, Pulisic did not get to keep his spot from the midweek win over Barnsley in the FA Cup. Still, Tuchel expects him to eventually make said impact.
“[It] was a very tight decision if he starts again after the cup game, or if he comes on from the bench. We decided for another eleven to start. Unfortunately, we only had three changes which makes it very difficult to give time to the players, to let everybody play, and to have an impact with the changes of fresh legs. That makes it difficult and the third change we didn’t want to use too early.
“During the match, we did what we normally do which is to only change to win the match. He deserves to start, or to come in but I could only use three guys. I hope he keeps on going and he will make an important impact for us in the future.”
-Thomas Tuchel; source: Football.London
Abraham’s injury forced Tuchel into an early sub, and the second-half changes were largely aimed at keeping control of (and winning) the match, rather than going all-out for more goals.
That said, Pulisic not starting any of Tuchel’s five Premier League matches feels fairly significant, especially given Tuchel’s stated intention to rotate players and give everyone a fair shot. Kurt Zouma, Emerson, Billy Gilmour, and a recovering-from-injury N’Golo Kanté have been the only others to miss out similarly thus far. (Zouma has not started a Premier League match since the 3-1 defeat to Manchester City at the start of the calendar year in fact, but that’s a mystery for another day.)
Of course, Chelsea have plenty of games, big and small coming up and there will be plenty of minutes to go around as forms and fortunes change. And we’ve seen Pulisic deputize as a wing-back and as a de facto center forward already as well with Tuchel. That sort of versatility should serve him (and the team) well.
But we’re still waiting for the Pulisic of Project Restart to return...