Christian Pulisic scored 11 goals and contributed 10 assists in his debut season for Chelsea. He returns impressively, but when Frank Lampard describes the American as “work in progress,” you understand what he means.
His second season at Stamford Bridge has been hampered by injury frustrations, but Pulisic still has a look at his class as he plays, and Chelsea now need him more than ever.
Efforts to start after the first positive season in the Premier League have been thwarted by recurring hamstring injuries that have limited Pulisic to just four Chelsea starts and eight appearances so far in this campaign.
Christian Pulisic (right) will hope for an extended race without injuries in the Chelsea team
The American spent much of the season with annoying ski problems
With other games missing and important, Frank Lampard will hope to have a Pulisic form
His slippery finish to turn Timo Werner’s cross ended a beautiful hour on the field in Chelsea’s 3-1 win over Leeds United 10 days ago, after Pulisic replaced injured Hakim Ziyech.
But it was followed by another hamstring change that kept him away from Chelsea’s 1-0 defeat at Everton on Saturday night, after Lampard decided not to risk the 22-year-old winger.
With Ziyech and Callum Hudson-Odoi also absent due to injury, Kai Havertz played in a wide position with which he did not feel comfortable, as Chelsea lost ground to Tottenham and Liverpool at the top.
“Christian is an ongoing work,” Lampard said before the trip to Goodison Park. “We know his abilities, it’s very clear. He showed them when he came up against Leeds last week.
“I just have to find the right way to get the best results from him on a regular and consistent basis.”
What do the top six in the Premier League look like as we approach the hectic schedule of festive programs
Pulisic enters to turn Timo Werner’s cross and round out Chelsea’s 3-1 win over Leeds
The American celebrates his second goal of the season in Chelsea’s 3-1 victory at Stamford Bridge
Chelsea festive games
Tuesday Lupi (A)
December 21st West Ham (H)
December 26 Arsenal (A)
December 28th Villa Aston (H)
January 2 Manchester City (H)
Lampard has managed to assemble most of the pieces of his Chelsea puzzle this season. Ziyech and Reece James are natural partners on the right flank, Timo Werner is shooting in English football, Mason Mount has responded to Havertz’s competition and the defense seems much stronger than last year.
But getting the best results from Pulisic remains a missing piece – for now – and the main reason for concern about his physical condition.
Hamstring problems are a professional danger for players with a blistering rhythm, such as the American extreme.
Short, sharp, explosive explosions of motion will always put more strain on the muscles than on greater distances at lower speeds. Not to mention being a bigger target for the cynical approach.
Lampard will no doubt use Pulisic easily when he can, but in the absence of Ziyech and Hudson-Odoi for the next week or two, he will have to be immersed in an unforgivable Christmas program.
Chelsea head to Wolves on Tuesday night, host West Ham next Monday, travel to London at Arsenal on boxing day, play again exactly 48 hours later at Aston Villa before hosting Manchester City on January 2nd.
They would hope to take at least 10 points out of the 15 offers to stay in the title picture, but, like any other Premier League team, the festive period is a real slogan that extends even the biggest teams.
Hakim Ziyech will leave for a few weeks after leaving injured against Leeds
Callum Hudson-Odoi is also off the field with Chelsea in the absence of wide players
Statistics suggest that Chelsea win more matches when Pulisic is not in their team – but their dominance, shooting and crossing statistics remain largely unchanged. Opta’s kindness
Pulisic, who missed more games than was available for this season, will have to play his full role.
But one thing Lampard and Chelsea will not continue is the statistical curiosity that Chelsea’s winning percentage drops from 59.1% to 45.2% when Pulisic is involved.
While their possession, cross-country and shooting figures are largely unchanged, they appear to be more successful without the man who cost them £ 58m from Borussia Dortmund last year.
It can be explained by the fact that Pulisic was in a regular start race about 12 months ago, when Chelsea suffered league losses in Manchester City, West Ham, Everton, Bournemouth and Southampton in November and December 2019.
He was in a purple patch just before that, scoring a hat-trick at Burnley and five goals in three league games, before a broken adductor muscle suffered in January kept him out until the restart in June.
The highlight of Pulisic’s first season at Chelsea came when he scored a hat-trick at Burnley
He also scored the opening goal in the FA Cup final with Arsenal, although Chelsea lost 2-1
Encouraging for the present, it didn’t take long for Pulisic to return to the pace after the injury. After the restart of the season, he scored five goals, including the early opening of the FA Cup final loss to Arsenal and set up four more.
This season, those injuries prevented Pulisic from finding any rhythm. He scored from the bench in the Champions League victory 4-0 away in Krasnodar in Russia and then against Leeds, but for the most part it was a time of frustration and rehabilitation.
Now is his time to shine. Lampard confirmed to Pulisic if he is fit enough to be in the team for Tuesday’s visit to Molineux. Win that and Chelsea will return to the top of the standings.
With Liverpool and Tottenham set to play on Wednesday, Chelsea will be hoping for an Anfield draw to keep them informed, although the festive schedule is so full and unpredictable who knows who will lead on January 3rd.
What we do know is that Pulisic has the class to have a say in this discussion.