Why Isn’t Christian Pulisic Starting for Chelsea?

Posted By Chops on September 23, 2019 - Last Updated on February 21, 2020

Another match, another Christian Pulisic no-show.

The highly-touted American didn’t manage to get on the pitch again on Sunday, sitting out Chelsea’s 2-1 defeat to Liverpool.

Pulisic has played in four of six Premier League matches this season, starting three. However, it’s been three matches since Pulisic has seen the field. He didn’t play last weekend vs Wolverhampton. He missed making his 2019-20 UEFA Champions League debut for Chelsea in their midweek loss to Valencia.

So why isn’t Christian Pulisic playing more?

Frank Lampard explains why Pulisic isn’t playing

After the Liverpool loss, Chelsea manager Frank Lampard explained why Pulisic isn’t playing. The long and the short of it is: he’s not ready and Lampard has better options.

Said Lampard:

“[Pulisic] wasn’t a victim of the injuries. I’ve got a squad to pick from. Before that he had played a few games. Willian has come back in and been sharp and looked good. I decided to go with Mason [Mount] today, because we needed to stay strong in midfield and play Mason high up the pitch. That is my choice to make. He will get ample opportunities. He is a young player as well as everyone is talking about Mason and Tammy and Fikayo. He is actually as young, if not younger, than some of them. His chances will come.”

Does Pulisic deserve to be playing more?

This is the more difficult question. On one hand, when you invest the kind of money Chelsea did on him, yeah, he should be playing as much as possible.

On the other, Lampard wasn’t in charge when that acquisition was made. And while Pulisic has been just fine, Lampard does have better options.

The three best statistical performers via WhoScored for Chelsea are all 21 and under. Tammy Abraham has been one of the Premier League’s best goal scorers this season. And Mason Mount has been one of the best players, period.

Ross Barkley is the best statistical and positional comp to Pulisic, and they’ve played the same number of games (Pulisic has played more minutes though).

Keep in mind, something similar happened to Pulisic last season at Borussia Dortmund. While struggling with nagging injuries, Jadon Sancho emerged as one of the Bundesliga’s best players completely outshined the American. He drastically cut in to Pulisic’s minutes. This doesn’t make Pulisic a poor player. But it illustrates he has a ways to go and must earn all of his minutes like anybody else.

And the reality is, Pulisic is getting reasonable amounts of playing time. Lampard has an enviable task of integrating and developing a wealth of young players. If hie manages it right, it’ll pay huge dividends for Chelsea in a couple of years.

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Chops is the executive producer of High Press Soccer. He's an unabashed Liverpool fan who will absolutely let that bias seep into his reporting and analysis.

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