Christian Pulisic went from being an American hero to the symbolic victim of Frank Lampard’s shadowy animus in just under a month. Chelsea are in a pretty good place if they can give Pulisic the appropriate time to adapt and develop.
Christian Pulisic has 441 minutes across all competitions this season, exactly the same amount as Pedro, tied for 10th most on the team. Looking across some of Chelsea’s rivals, Pulisic has only six (6) fewer minutes than Sergio Aguero; 54 more minutes than Heung-Min Son; 12 fewer than Nicolas Pepe; and nine fewer than Paul Pogba.
If Pep Guardiola, Mauricio Pochettino, Unai Emery and Ole Gunnar Solksjaer have agendas against their respective players listed, that would be news to us and them (well, maybe Pogba knows). But since this is Chelsea, a section of fans claim Frank Lampard already has it in for Pulisic, as evidenced by the American’s absence from three of Chelsea’s nine games.
Christian Pulisic played in the first four Premier League games, making three starts and going the full 90 minutes once, against Sheffield United.
On the same day that Pulisic sat the bench for the first time in his very young Premier League career, Pep Guardiola decided not to include Kevin de Bruyne in his starting XI. This was a baffling decision, much more so than Frank Lampard’s to sit Pulisic, and Guardiola quickly had reason to regret his decision. He ultimately reversed course and brought de Bruyne on in the 57′ at 3-1 down in an attempt to salvage the result. The attempt failed.
Kevin de Bruyne’s exclusion against Norwich City had a much greater impact on his team than Pulisic’s against Wolves. Chelsea probably would have won at Molineux had Pulisic played in place of Mason Mount or Willian, although perhaps not by as much as Willian had a very impressive game in every stage of play and Mount finished the day’s scoring for 5-2. But this does not mean Chelsea were better off without Pulisic in the same way Manchester City were worse off without de Bruyne.
But this is the conclusion the Pulisic partisans would want you to draw. The Wolves game was the first of three Pulisic would sit out: Valencia in the Champions League and Liverpool in the league followed over the next week. Chelsea lost both of those games.
We haven’t bothered to see if the fans crying out for “justice for Pulisic” or whatever other baloney are the same ones who think Chelsea need to show more “ambition” in the transfer market by spending gobs of money on every available world-class player, a la Manchester City. Perhaps the troll farm who oversaw the response to one of our recent tweets, to include digging up some tweets from 2015, could look into this for us. But if Chelsea did take the Guardiola / City Football Group approach to transfers, they would find themselves with many more players like Pulisic on the bench more often.
The more top players a club accumulates, the more top players they have to keep out of the lineup occasionally. Manchester City’s substitutes for more games cost more than some Premier League squads (might be a slight exaggeration, but only slight).
If Pulisic fans are upset that he is on the bench, what do they think would happen if Chelsea had two or three more forwards or attacking midfielders in their mid-20s each, worth £60 million or more? Under those circumstances, Pulisic might drop all the way down to the 13th or 14th most-used player after nine games.
Chelsea are in a comfortable spot when they can give a player like Christian Pulisic the appropriate time to develop to the team and the league in the opening month of the season. They have enough good players that Pulisic can be valuable without being essential.
Even though he has several years of experience in the Bundesliga and Champions League with Borussia Dortmund, he is only 21. He is still developing physically, which is a major factor in how he adapts himself to the Premier League; and he is still growing accustomed to the tactical and technical demands of the league, his teammates and Frank Lampard.
If Chelsea were in a more desperate situation, he would have to learn under much more adverse circumstances, which would open him up to much worse criticism from a larger portion of the fanbase and media.
Despite the transfer ban, Chelsea have an incredible depth of talent in the team. With Willian and Pedro at the senior end and Callum Hudson-Odoi and Mason Mount at the junior end, Christian Pulisic has plenty of competition and will have to earn his place in the side.
That competition is absolutely necessary for his development, not only because it will force him to work hard and earn his spot in every lineup, but because it allows for his development. Pedro and Willian are there not only to give him competition, but advice and mentorship. Hudson-Odoi, Mount and Pulisic are challenging each other for the present and the future, but they are also ensuring they each have a present and a future, by raising the level of play and allowing for a healthy rotation.
And they are all there to give Frank Lampard as much flexibility with his tactics, formations and personnel as possible.
Antonio Conte once said that having to choose from so many talented players is the kind of difficult decisions managers like to have. Frank Lampard has that now. Pulisic fans should recognize the promise this situation carries, and dial down the hoopla over the perceived slights to Chelsea’s 10th most-used player.