Chelsea’s Christian Pulisic has already earned praise from many for returning early from his break. But that also carries its own set of risks.
Last summer, the World Cup ran until 15 July. Chelsea players opted to take their fully earned rest afterwards, even if it meant joining preseason right at the end. Other teams, like Manchester United, saw many players rush back quickly. Those players spent a fair amount of time injured as Chelsea’s players survived nearly the entire season injury free.
Preseason is important, but so is rest. While Christian Pulisic is getting praise from Frank Lampard for joining the squad so quickly after the Gold Cup final, it should not be ignored that he is skipping out on needed rest. The American is taking a gamble that he (and Chelsea) hopes pays off.
Pulisic spent a fair amount of time injured himself last season, only really returning to the Dortmund squad to close the campaign. Many will point to that as a reason why he does not need rest but that should be even more reason to take the full break.
He would not have been returning from injury to train at a preseason pace. Pulisic would have returned to a slower pace of training as the season closed. The body adapts and his would have adapted to that. Suddenly ramp that intensity up on a tired body like Ole Gunnar Solskjaer did when he became United manager and the injuries begin to pop up.
Chelsea cannot afford to have an injured Pulisic. The Blues are already short on wingers as it is and though Lampard has shown he has wingerless formations in his toolbox, the manager will still want the other option too.
Everyone wants to prove themselves this preseason because everyone feels like they have a chance. Pulisic will know that much will be expected of him as the only true new member to the side and the hole left behind by Eden Hazard. In that way, the desperation to impress Lampard is a bit of a double edged sword when someone like Pulisic really just needs to kick back for a bit longer.
One small advantage Pulisic will have, however, is that Lampard has already shown that he will ease players in slowly if there is any concern. With Hazard gone, N’Golo Kante is the only world class player in the squad but Lampard is adamant that he will not join the full training until he is fit enough. That is something that would not have been the case under other managers.
Hopefully Pulisic is treated as smartly as Kante has been. If his body is not fit enough to jump right in, then he should not. It is good to get his face in front of Lampard and his teammates regardless but there is no need to be reckless and aggravate any of his previous injuries in the name of impressing Lampard.
Wanting to get back to work is an admirable attitude. But so is understanding how important rest is on an athlete’s body. Pulisic will be short on rest and high on praise and hopefully he does see himself missing time later for rushing back now.