How can Christian Pulisic break through and become a regular at Chelsea?
The best answer to this question is simple: Be patient.
Pulisic told me on Saturday that it is “very frustrating” to have sat on the bench as an unused sub in all of Chelsea’s last three games in the Premier League. And of course the 21-year-old is going to be unhappy at not playing after his $73 million transfer from Borussia Dortmund this summer.
[ MORE: Pulisic speaks to JPW ]
But so many players have arrived in the Premier League after big money transfers and have either struggled to settle in altogether, or taken a season to get used to England’s top-flight.
Looking around the Premier League right now, the likes of Fabinho, Bernardo Silva and Heung-Min Son were all eased into their teams and took a while to get going into the PL, and now they are all stars.
Pulisic should use their experiences as a road map for how he navigates this extended period of time spent on the bench.
In the case of Fabinho, many Liverpool fans were saying “why have we spent so much on him?” as he hardly played in his first few months under Jurgen Klopp. But Klopp explained he had to adapt and once that was he case, he became an integral part of their UEFA Champions League wining team.
These things take time. Now it’s about Pulisic working on things he can improve and staying hungry and focused.
But he did have chances at the start of the season when Willian, Callum Hudson-Odoi and Pedro were out injured, and he only showed flashes of his best.
The assist in the UEFA Super Cup final was great, so too was his general display at Norwich City. But his lack of defensive knowhow in the home draw with Sheffield United and Leicester City were shown up, and he has been guilty of playing it safe with his passes and runs.
As our analysts say in the video above, Pulisic needs a little guidance from his more experienced Chelsea teammates to get through this tough patch. The issue is, many of his teammates are younger or the same age as him.
Many believe Frank Lampard is favoring young English players who have come through Chelsea’s academy — Mason Mount was coached by Lampard while on loan at Derby County last season and Hudson-Odoi has been heavily praised — and there could be something to that.
But, instead of making this an anti-American or anti-Pulisic thing when it comes to Lampard’s decisions, there is one thing Pulisic has to do himself to prosper.
His time will come, he will get minutes and he will get chances to show what he can do. Pedro and Willian will need to be rested and both Mount and Hudson-Odoi will have dips in form as they settle in to their first full seasons in the top-flight.
There is no doubt the Chelsea academy kids have an edge over Pulisic right now, because they know the club inside out, feel comfortable in their surroundings and have a greater connection with the fans. Maybe that in turn means Lampard is more willing to trust them and given them more opportunities compared to Pulisic.
This is a marathon, not a sprint, and as he said to me pitch side at Stamford Bridge on Saturday, he knew this wasn’t going to be easy.
In life if something is easy, is it worthwhile? Often it’s not. And the grind to adjust to life at Chelsea and in the Premier League will be a tough one, but also a very satisfying if Pulisic can develop into what everyone knows he can become.
A star in the Premier League. He has the potential to be just that and in the long run this setback may be the making of him.