LONDON — For the fourth time in the last five matches Christian Pulisic sat on the bench as an unused sub for Chelsea.
[ MORE: What now for Pulisic? ]
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.