In Focus: Captain America Pulisic can be hero Tuchel needs
Christian Pulisic opened his goalscoring account for the season in Chelsea’s opening-day win against Crystal Palace — yet it was not until Saturday’s resounding victory at Leicester that he bagged his second.
The USA winger made a dramatic return to action this month, scoring for the Blues and his country following an ankle injury.
He has missed a significant amount of football in recent weeks but managed to get his name on the scoresheet against Mexico before notching at the King Power Stadium.
Ahead of Chelsea’s Champions League clash with Juventus, we look at why an injury-free remainder of the season could see him become a key player for Thomas Tuchel’s side.
Pulisic, 23, joined Chelsea from Borussia Dortmund for £58million in January 2019, dodging the Blues’ impending transfer ban before linking up with his new employers that summer.
There was plenty of interest in the American’s signature as one of his nation’s most high-profile players and Dortmund’s latest emerging talent.
But having got their man, Chelsea coaches have not been able to select him as often as they would have hoped.
Pulisic has suffered seven separate injuries causing him to miss a total of 39 games since arriving at Stamford Bridge, not including coronavirus-related absences.
Luckily for Chelsea, they have a squad that arguably boasts the best depth of quality in the Premier League.
Unfortunately for Pulisic, that means any one of Kai Havertz, Mason Mount, Callum Hudson-Odoi and Hakim Ziyech have been able to take his place in Tuchel’s starting XI.
This season he has appeared in just 115 minutes of Premier League action for the West Londoners across three outings.
In fact, he has yet to start 20 league fixtures in either of his two full seasons in England.
Former Tottenham, Aston Villa and United States goalkeeper Brad Friedel recently spoke about Pulisic’s fitness concerns.
He said: "You want your best players to also be playing consistently with their club teams and you want them free of injury, and he has not been.
"That has also stunted his ability to be a regular for Chelsea.
"I don’t think it’s a concern as far as when he is fit will he be on the team sheet. For the US he will, but it is a concern because you want your best players to be fully fit.
"I’m sure, if you ask Chelsea are his injuries an issue — maybe not on the record but definitely off it — they would say ‘yes, it’s a concern’."
Having made his professional debut under Blues boss Tuchel at Dortmund, the German is aware of Pulisic’s qualities.
Speaking after his goal against Leicester, Tuchel said: "It’s one of Christian’s key qualities, to arrive exactly like that, not only in the box but also in the six-yard box. This is top quality from him.
"He gives something of course in terms of sprints, repetitive sprints, intensity on and off the ball, but in the end of the attacks he is hungry to score, he arrives in the box and this is where we need players also, to be dangerous and to score."
Pulisic was third at Chelsea for touches in the opposition box per 90 minutes with 6.12 last season and no one attempted more take-ons, with only Mateo Kovacic (2.62) surpassing his 2.54 successful dribbles per 90 minutes.
Time to shine
Having made such an impact as a teenager, it is easy to forget Pulisic is still only 23 — but he also needs to start making up for lost time.
Tuchel’s preferred 3-4-2-1 system is ideal for the Hershey native, who has a tendency to operate as an inside forward.
Now is the time for Pulisic to step up for his club, just as he has done for the US.
The United States are likely to qualify for next year’s World Cup and will host the 2026 tournament with Canada and Mexico.
At club level, Chelsea are hunting a Premier League title to go with last season’s Champions League triumph.
These could be the best moments of Pulisic’s career — if he can stay fit.