Christian Pulisic: Season Two at Chelsea Overall Report Card

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To truly evaluate what Christian Pulisic has done (or more specifically what he hasn’t been able to do) this season, you got to first look back on his overall Chelsea journey thus far. It’s Gestaltian here- the whole is much more than the sum of its parts. Currently on international break with the United States, Pulisic has vowed to stay at Chelsea and try to win back his place in the team.

Also, his national team manager, Gregg Berhalter, has said he’ll manage the 22-year-old’s minutes during these internationals, to make sure he returns to Chelsea in a good place.

Right now, the Pennsylvanian Messi has not looked himself, lacking in confidence and enduring a subtantial slump. At this point, he’s the first guy off the bench, but manager Thomas Tuchel has made it clear that he really only sees the Hershey, PA native as a bench player; at least for now.

Flashing Back on Last Season:

It took awhile for Pulisic to break into the team, as he was acquired in the Maurizio Sarri era, and new manager Frank Lampard trusted his own guys over him. Pulisic made his mark in cup competitions, registering assists before scoring goals, and it wasn’t long until he bagged a hat trick (on Oct 26 vs Burnley) of his own, and made himself undroppable.

He started putting up remarkable efficiency numbers, in regards to goals involved with, but then he got setback by a nasty adductor injury. The lockdown layoff was probably better to Pulisic than to any other Premier League footballer as he was dominant during Project Restart.

During this portion of the season, he was Chelsea’s best player overall and most creative in the final third. At this point in time, the Eden Hazard comparisons were everywhere, and well justified.

’20-’21 Premier League Stats:

One goal, 27 shots, 14 chances, 1 assist, 81% pass completion

What’s Gone Wrong:

The 20/21 campaign began on a massive delay for Pulisic as he hurt his hamstring in the FA Cup Final loss to Arsenal on August 1. After a massive summer purple patch, he returned to action, but never got on track in the fall, before then suffering another injury setback, getting injured in the warm-ups vs. Burnley on Halloween.

He’s since been held back by injury, poor form when given playing time and a lack of opportunities under the new Blues boss. The system switch doesn’t serve Pulisic very well, and it’s hard to see that changing any time soon. Under Tuchel, Chelsea are undefeated, as his tactics are working.

Entering this season, Pulisic had scored 22 league goals combined at Chelsea and Borussia Dortmund, so eventually, he’s destined to go back to the statistical mean of his overall body of work. In other words, he needs to have a “shooter’s mentality”- have a short memory for the misses, and just keep plugging away.

Good News: 

The man of the match performance in the FA Cup quarterfinals, the most recent time Chelsea took to the pitch, is encouraging. Maybe that boosts his morale and gets him going again?

Although he isn’t getting major minutes in the league or Champions League right now, at least he is starting to feature more in recent weeks.

It’s also worth noting that his lack of playing time isn’t just do to his own issues with form and fitness, but the overall look and shape of the Chelsea team. Roman Abramovich greenlighted a massive summer spending spree in the final third this past window, creating more competition for places in attack.

Then, when he switched managers, he brought in a guy with a more defensive approach, thus giving the forwards even less opportunity.

Final Grade: C-

While 2019-20, or at least the conclusion of it, was a coming out party for Pulisic, this campaign has been an undeniable step back.

Paul M. Banks runs The Sports Bank, partnered with News NowBanks, the author of “No, I Can’t Get You Free Tickets: Lessons Learned From a Life in the Sports Media Industry,” has regularly appeared in WGNSports IllustratedChicago Tribune and SB Nation. Follow him on Twitter and Instagram.

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