Chelsea’s new manager, Thomas Tuchel, may be headed for a real problem if he continues to freeze out Christian Pulisic from the first team. While the new Chelsea gaffer has had an exemplary start to his tenure in Chelsea Blue with no losses out of 11 to-date, his non-use of Captain America has been raising eyebrows and not just across the pond.
Pulisic’s latest appearance was for about a minute or so of regular time in the win against Everton. Not exactly a runout of any significance. So it’s not exactly unreasonable to ask what’s going on with the American star who, along with another currently lesser-used striker Olivier Giroud and Willian cemented, Chelsea’s top-four finish last season. Is he injured? Is he not-match fit? Just what is going on here?
Pulisic, after the suspension last season due to Covid 19, was about as unplayable as anyone in the Premier League for that period. It showed in his production and in the team’s wins. Take a gander at his performance against Liverpool late last season for an inkling of just how good he was and is. It will be clear to any football observer, that he was as good or better during that span than anyone in the league and that includes the superstars Kevin De Bruyne and Mohamed Salah. Those names are not just great players but will become a greater part of this story, as well.
Here’s how NBCSports quotes Tuchel on Pulisic’s situation,
"“I cannot say anything other than positive things about him. Maybe his problem is that I know from Dortmund how strong he is from the bench. I think he started only in the cup game and in the end that is my responsibility and my fault. But like I said, it is a bit unfair but I know how good he is and what an impact he can have in 20-30 mins. He was unlucky in the last games. It is not a lack of trust or lack of quality. It is maybe just to be a bit patient."
So, evidently, are we to assume Pulisic is looked upon as only a bench player by Tuchel? He also says, “it’s a bit unfair”. We’ve heard that before from Tuchel speaking about players who may have been regulars in the past but are now bench-dwellers. What does “unfair” actually mean? It seems to mean that they don’t warrant a place in the first team. If that’s what he thinks, he should just say it and not obfuscate and leave fans and observers scratching their heads trying to figure out exactly why excellent players are sitting on the bench for games at a time.
Tuchel also used the term “unlucky”? What does luck have to do with a player’s sitting? Either he warrants first-team selection or he doesn’t. Luck has nothing to do with it. It’s the manager’s call and his current calls are leaving Pulisic on the pine as we say in the USA. As a recent article suggested, Tuchel’s player selection calls were a prescription for big-time future problems in the making. I was hammered for that due to his current success.
But let’s not forget some important lessons from the past when new 18-month managers arrived at Chelsea, made rash and really bad decisions by not playing young talents (terrific players like De Bruyne, Salah, and Romelu Lukaku) who are sold and then blossom shortly into world-class players. Are we on the way to seeing that happen again? Tuchel’s handling of Pulisic smacks of that dynamic all over again. Already the rumors of Manchester United, Liverpool and Bayern Munich (what else is new, what young Chelsea talent doesn’t that outfit covet?) are showing up in the media.
And, at the risk of again warning (as a previous article did when Chelsea under Frank Lampard racked up a 17-game unbeaten streak) not to get ahead of ourselves with this current streak because it may not be all that it seems, I’ll point this out. They beat Everton in a nice defensive performance but an own goal and penalty are not exactly an attacking outburst. And has that really been seen in any game under Tuchel to-date? What happens when the opponents figure out his defensive system?
Meanwhile, three key scorers from last season, Tammy Abraham, Pulisic, and Giroud languish in no man’s land while the offense continues to sputter. The wins, especially against Spurs and the Toffees are great, no doubt about that. But let’s again remind that Tuchel has yet to unlock the scoring potential of the mega-million-pound attacking talent he has at his disposal. Leaving some of his best attackers on the bench for extended periods is not going to help that situation at all.
A sale of Pulisic would assuredly be another potential monster gaffe by Chelsea, once his muscle issues are behind him when we’ll see him burst onto the world scene like a typhoon again and be the player he was after the suspension last season. Tuchel as well or better than anyone but Frank Lampard should know Pulisic’s talent and potential, especially since he’s demonstrated it clearly as a player in the Premier League. To date, he doesn’t seem to appreciate it. He should keep this quote from author, George Santayana from “The Life of Reason”, 1905 in mind,
"Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it."
Maybe he should take a few minutes and watch the tapes of the latter part of the last season if he needs convincing. If his player selections wind up with this great young player leaving Chelsea due to a lack of playing time, it’s a mistake that may come back to haunt him (remember the 18-month manager tenure scenario) and the Blues in the future. Big time.
The last thing Chelsea fans need is to see yet another young, really good (or great) player shining on the world stage after being kicked to the curb at Stamford Bridge.