The first 78.9 percent of Christian Pulisic’s 2020-21 Premier League season hasn’t exactly gone according to plan, but Chelsea manager Thomas Tuchel is still looking to the American star to deliver in a big way during the remaining 21.1 percent.
Speaking Friday, ahead of Chelsea’s Premier League clash with Crystal Palace on Saturday (Watch live, 12:30 pm ET on NBC and online via NBCSports.com), Tuchel was full of praise and high hopes for Pulisic, saying the 22-year-old “can be a huge weapon for us” due to the “huge physical impact” he has on the game when he’s on the field.
Of course, the last bit there is the most important part: Pulisic has to stay healthy in order to get, and stay, on the field for Chelsea. Just last weekend, he scored the opening goal against West Brom but was abruptly subbed off at halftime after re-tweaking his hamstring while sprinting back onto the field. The injuries were a constant annoyance for Frank Lampard, and life sounds much the same for Tuchel these days.
“I think for Pulisic, fitness is always important, because he has this huge physical impact because of the number of sprints and the amount of intensity that he can give to a team on the highest level. This is one of his biggest strengths.
“The other thing is he needs to feel confident and calm mentally, and then he can be a huge weapon for us. He scored in the last game against West Brom. Unfortunately, the overall game and his need to go off the pitch at halftime clouded the goal and the impact he could have had in that game.
“Again, he came close to scoring [versus Porto]. He had a huge impact from the bench.
“You have to take him off and hopefully he will not be re-injured, because I feel him stronger and stronger, more self-confident and he can be a decisive factor in the next game with his speed and ability to dribble, and his ability to arrive in the box in dangerous situations, and balls from the side, and crosses he has the feeling to arrive and score.
“Hopefully he can have that impact and it is our job to push him there, and to calm his mind that he feels the trust and feels confident.”
With eight Premier League games left to play, Chelsea find themselves locked in a heated battle with fellow London side
Tottenham Arsenal West Ham for a top-four finish and qualification to next season’s UEFA Champions League. The Blues trail the Hammers by one point, with the two sides set to meet at the London Stadium two weekends from now.