Pulisic: Lack of Chelsea playing time ‘very frustrating’

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LONDON — For the fourth time in the last five matches Christian Pulisic sat on the bench as an unused sub for Chelsea.

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The USMNT star, 21, watched on as Chelsea beat Brighton and Hove Albion 2-0 at Stamford Bridge on Saturday, as a handful of starts at the beginning of his Blues career has now given way to plenty of time on the bench.

Speaking exclusively to Pro Soccer Talk by the side of the Stamford Bridge pitch as he held his USMNT wash bag and looked more than a little fed up under the cloudy London skies, Pulisic was asked if he’s feeling frustrated by the current situation.

“Yeah, of course, it is very frustrating, but I will continue to work my hardest because I want to play,” Pulisic said.

With Pedro, Willian, Mason Mount and Callum Hudson-Odoi jumping ahead of Pulisic in the Chelsea pecking order, in terms of wingers, Frank Lampard has talked about the former Borussia Dortmund star still being young and needing to settle into life in England.

Has Lampard been giving him specific feedback on how to get on the pitch?

“Not so much,” Pulisic said. “He just said keep working, and now I have to prove myself in training and try to get back in the line up.”

As for life in London following his $73 million transfer, Pulisic is enjoying living in England’s capital city and the Chelsea fans want him to do well as a group of supporters asked for his shirt and waved around the Star Spangled Banner by the bench.

But Pulisic accepts it has been a bit of a challenge and it will take him some time to settle in.

Making this move a success will not be easy, but he knew that already.

“The city is great, I’ve enjoyed it. It has been good but it has been a change. There are going to be challenges,” Pulisic said. “I knew it was going to be tough coming here. It is never going to be easy. I’ve got to grind it out. I want to be back and be a part of the team and help the team win games.

“I want to play as many minutes as I can, that is really my goal, I want to be on the field… It is tough for me right now. I just have to continue to learn. Like I said, I want to be on the field really bad, I have to continue to work and prove myself to be there.”

Last season at Dortmund he found himself in a similar situation, benched due to injuries and the emergence of Jadon Sancho as his January move to Chelsea pushed him out of the thinking of head coach Lucien Favre.

Asked if he can learn from that experience of being on the bench at Dortmund for large swathes of last season, Pulisic believes he can replicate a campaign which saw him become increasingly influential.

“Of course,” Pulisic said, positively. “In the end I got minutes again and I played well towards the end of the season, so I just have to get my head down and get to work.”

But the message from Pulisic was simple: He didn’t expect life at Chelsea and in the Premier League to be easy and he knows there is a long battle ahead.

“It is not going to be easy here, but it was never going to be easy,” Pulisic added.

Even if most USMNT fans are already sounding the alarm bells on his move to Chelsea, Pulisic is up for the fight to get back into the team.

The problem is, Willian scored on Saturday, Hudson-Odoi has impressed and Mount is being praised heavily by Lampard.

As things stand, Pulisic is Chelsea’s fourth-choice winger, at best, and Pedro is still getting minutes ahead of him.

His move to the Premier League hasn’t worked out so far, but it is still early days and the Pennsylvania native seems determined to prove his doubters wrong.

It is way too early to make big picture predictions on Pulisic’s future in the PL, and everyone needs to give him, and Chelsea, time to figure things out.

DC United acquires Julian Gressel from Atlanta

Atlanta United trades for Julian Gressel
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How much is Major League Soccer’s best assist man worth?

About $750,000.

DC United paid Atlanta United that fee in allocation money for the rights to Julian Gressel, who had been at a contract impasse with the club who drafted him in 2017.

That fee could hit $1.1 million in incentives, and even so could be a bargain.

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Gressel was due to make around $133,000 this season and wanted an improved deal from Atlanta given his massive production since becoming the eighth overall pick in the 2017 MLS SuperDraft.

That salary is less than hundreds of players, most of them nowhere near Gressel’s impact. Nineteen Atlanta United players made more than him last season, so it’s understandable that the 26-year-old wanted to get paid.

We don’t know what he was asking, or why Atlanta wouldn’t get there. From MLSSoccer.com:

“If we really wanted to, we could have had him play on $130,000 this season, extend him a bona fide offer at the end of the season and (we’d still own his MLS rights),” said Atlanta United vice president Carlos Bocanegra. “We’re also trying to do the right thing for a guy who has given so much to the club and is really just a good kid all around.”

It’s a weird one, given what the club’s been paying others.

Gressel arrived at Providence College from Eintracht Bamberg and immediately started delivering for the Big East side. He finished his four years with 30 goals and 26 assists and All-American status.

There was some adapting to MLS, but he’s gotten better with every season. He scored 10 goals with 13 assists in all competitions last season.

Spurs chairman reportedly met with Real Madrid about Gareth Bale

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As a neutral, the idea of Gareth Bale rejoining Tottenham Hotspur would be a delight to our Premier League matchday viewing.

Obviously this applies to Spurs fans to the nth degree, especially after a dull 0-0 with Watford at the weekend.

In the short-term, Bale would be a terrific stopgap as Spurs struggle to find themselves without Harry Kane in both the PL and Champions League.

[ MORE: Premier League schedule ] 

In the long-term, Bale and Heung-Min Son on the wings of Harry Kane would be enough to make any PL power trio blush (unless Liverpool really does add Timo Werner).

A report out of Spain says Real Madrid president Florentino Perez met with Spurs chairman Daniel Levy about several things including the availability of Bale.

The Welsh star has been long admired by Jose Mourinho, and of course knows Spurs well having become a superstar after arriving from Southampton.

Bale is 30 and his wages would easily top Spurs’ pay list. His 21 goals and nine assists in the 2012/13 Premier League season join his 19 and 11 in 2015 La Liga as his top league seasons.

Spurs host Norwich City on Wednesday (Watch live at 2:30 p.m. ET online via NBCSports.com).

Guardiola praises Laporte, “the best left central defender in the world”

Pep Guardiola praises Aymeric Laporte
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Manchester City kept its first clean sheet of 2020 on Tuesday, posting a 1-0 win over Sheffield United at Bramall Lane.

It took the two-time reigning Premier League champions six tries to get there, the previous zero coming against this same Blades side at the Etihad Stadium.

[ MORE: Premier League schedule

City manager Pep Guardiola was quick to give credit to a returning hero, as center back Aymeric Laporte returned to the fold for the first time since Aug. 31.

The club was 3W-1D at that point. They went 12W-2D-5L without him.

Here’s Guardiola, from the Manchester Evening News:

“It’s incredible,” Guardola said. “We have missed him a lot, he’s the best left central defender in the world. Imagine the best teams in the world lose their best central defender. We miss him a lot because he’s a specialist left foot where our buildup. He is fast, strong in the air.”

“He has something that we don’t have in the squad. His left foot and many actions to build up to make it quicker and better – we don’t have it, not because the other ones are not good but he has the only left foot as a central defender and for the way we want to play that is so important. His character and mentality and winning, he has all the attributes. For me, when he is fit he is the best left central defender in the world.”

If you read that as a little bit of an explanation for City being 13 points off Liverpool, you’ve similar eyes to us.

Pep is asking how Liverpool would look without Virgil Van Dijk, how Real Madrid appears when Sergio Ramos is out.

It’s not the be-all, end-all, but as I wrote when Laporte went down, this is the key piece to their defending efforts as well as where they begin possession.

We’re also grateful that Guardiola didn’t drop some sort of, “He’s like a January transfer addition,” statement (at least as far as we’ve read.

Chelsea admit they miss USMNT’s Pulisic

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LONDON — Since USMNT star Christian Pulisic was injured in training in the first week of January, Chelsea have lost against Newcastle, drawn with Arsenal and blown away Burnley.

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In the two games where they’ve dropped points they’ve missed Pulisic’s genius in the final third with both Willian and Callum Hudson-Odoi easily shackled by Arsenal in their London derby. Chelsea admitted as much when speaking after the 2-2 draw against Arsenal on Tuesday, an Arsenal side who played with 10 men for over 60 minutes of the game.

Asked by Pro Soccer Talk about Pulisic’s adductor injury and if they missed him during the draw against Arsenal, downbeat Chelsea boss Frank Lampard noted that Pulisic, 21, was “playing really well” before his injury.

“Yeah, a game like today could have been a good where he would have been helpful for us because he was playing well for a patch. But other people have to stand up in those situations,” Lampard said.

When will Pulisic be back?

Lampard confirmed he is making good progress but will not be fit until after the mid-season player break in February, which means he will miss their FA Cup trip to Hull City this Saturday and their clash at Leicester City on Feb. 1. He may not be back until Feb. 17 when they host Manchester United in the Premier League, which means in total he will have been out for a period of six weeks.

“In terms of when he’s back, it is not going to be a week, it is probably be the other end of the early February break but he is getting better and he isn’t far away,” Lampard said.

Speaking to Pro Soccer Talk pitch-side at Stamford Bridge, Chelsea captain Cesar Azpilicueta, who scored their late second goal which looked like being the winner, lavished praise on Pulisic when asked about his absence over the last week.

“Christian is a magnificent player. Since he joined us in the summer he has shown us his potential and we know that he can make the difference at any time. Whenever a player is injured it is not good for a team because we lose potential and I hope to have him back soon,” Azpilicueta said.

Chelsea’s skipper is expecting big things from Pulisic when he does return to fitness, as the fourth-place Blues now have just a six-point cushion to those outside of the top four and have played a game more.

It seems like everyone at Chelsea hopes the USMNT star can rejuvenate their attack in the final months of the season.

“After coming to Europe as a young boy to Germany, he came to Chelsea and it is one step forward, playing for Chelsea every game, fighting to win and fighting for trophies,” Azpilicueta said. “In my role I’ve tried to help in settle into the city and the club. He has a brilliant attitude. Always trying to improve. I am sure he will become bigger and bigger.”