The star of Chelsea’s surge into the Champions League places during Project Restart hasn’t started in five Premier League matches under new boss Thomas Tuchel, playing a total of 84 minutes over three substitute appearances.
And that’s a concern for USMNT supporters as well as the man himself: Christian Pulisic.
That said, there are a lot of variables at play here. Tuchel handed Pulisic his professional debut at Dortmund and the pair has a cozy relationship. And Tuchel hinted at some sort of fitness issue in explaining the most recent absence from the XI. Also, Tuchel has opted for a formation that does not include Pulisic’s best position of wing.
Joe Prince-Wright, Nick Mendola, and Andy Edwards discuss whether Chelsea, USMNT, and Christian Pulisic fans should be worried about the American’s status in the video above.
We’ll also work through some of the numbers behind Pulisic and Tuchel below.
General second-year struggles
Pulisic has played a bit more than half of the Premier League minutes he saw in 2019-20, and the differences in output are significant.
Even when stretched to include Chelsea’s Champions League matches, the American is waiting to take flight in 2020-21.
There are inferences to be made here. For one, the league has seen him and is adjusting to him just as much as he is adjusting to the league.
And while Chelsea is implementing new pieces in Timo Werner, Hakim Ziyech, and Kai Havertz this season, the Blues were doing that with Pulisic, Tammy Abraham, and Mason Mount last season.
So, yeah, it’s okay to admit that the American phenom isn’t hitting the same heights — yet — this season.
Pulisic in Premier League, 2019-20 v 2020-21
Minutes: 1727 – 960
Goals: 9 – 1
Assists: 4 – 1
Shots/game: 2.5 – 1.5
Key passes/game: 1.2 – 0.8
Dribbles/game: 2.2 – 2.4
Fouls drawn/game: 1.2 – 1.3
Passing: 79.9% – 79.8%
Tackles/game: 0.9 – 0.6
Interceptions: 0.2 – 0.7
Clearances: 0.7 – 0.5
Pulisic in Champions League, 2019-20 v 2020-21
Minutes: 266 – 176
Goals: 1 – 1
Assists: 1 – 0
Shots/game: 1.8 – 2.7
Key passes/game: 2 – 0.3
Dribbles/game: 3.5 – 1.7
Fouls drawn/game: 1.2 – 1.3
Passing: 75.8% – 76%
Tackles/game: 1.3 – 1
Interceptions: 0 – 0.7
Clearances: 0.5 – 0
Chelsea has won five-of-six matches under Tuchel, drawing the opener versus Wolves before beating Burnley, Spurs, Sheffield United, Barnsley in the FA Cup, and Newcastle. He’s used some variation of a 3-4-2-1 and 3-4-1-2 for most of the matches.
Tuchel over Borussia Dortmund for the start of the 2015-16 Bundesliga season, winning his first 11 matches in charge with BVB in a 4-1-4-1 for most of that period. Pulisic made his Bundesliga debut in January 2016, often lining up at left wing in a 4-2-3-1 or 4-3-3.
There are some examples of Pulisic operating in a Tuchel system that has three at the back, including his first Revierderby start as a right wing in a 3-4-3. He also played right mid in a 3-4-3, and some attacking mid in a 3-4-2-1 including a 1-goal, 1-assist show off the bench for Marco Reus in a 6-2 defeat of Bayer Leverkusen.
Players fall in and fall out of favor with managers on monthly and even weekly basis, especially when a change is made. It’s surprising that Pulisic has seen his minutes cut under Tuchel because of their previous relationship, but we’ve also seen surprising changes at other clubs.
Sam Allardyce hasn’t used his best creator, Matheus Pereira, as often as you’d think. Jose Mourinho and Dele Alli. And, of course, it’s still only a half-dozen games into the Tuchel era at Chelsea. It’s going to be fine. Probably.