Another week and another game during which Christian Pulisic
didn't get off the Chelsea bench.
Two games actually. Big ones. Both at home. And both losses.
Pulisic was an unused sub for the third straight game on Sunday when Chelsea lost to Liverpool 2-1.
The 5-2 win over Wolves a week ago followed the international break during which Pulisic returned early from the U.S. national team camp. This week began with a 1-0 loss to Valencia in the UEFA Champions League on Tuesday, a day before his 21st birthday.
It was only a couple of years ago that Liverpool was the team most often mentioned as the English destination for Pulisic, whose first season at Borussia Dortmund coincided with Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp's last season in Dortmund.
"He will be a proper player," Klopp said ahead of Sunday's match. "He's a talent, dynamic, good with both feet. Super exciting player, good signing."
Indeed, Pulisic was Chelsea's only summer signing as it was handed a transfer ban that forced the club to act quickly and acquire him in January in a deal valued at $73 million. (The Blues loaned him back to Dortmund for the remainder of the 2018-19 season.)
Last season would have suggested Pulisic wasn't going to break into the Chelsea and take Stamford Bridge by storm.
After Ousmane Dembele and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang left, one would have expected Pulisic would have become one of the pillars of the Dortmund attack. But Pulisic's playing time plummeted, from 2,312 Bundesliga minutes in 2017-18 to 894 in 2018-19.
Injuries were partly to blame last season, but other young players pulled even or moved ahead of him at Dortmund.
Injuries aren't an issue at Chelsea,
“He wasn’t a victim of the injuries," said Chelsea manager Frank Lampard. "I’ve got a squad to pick from. Before that, he had played a few games."
Lampard wasn't around in the winter when Chelsea bought Pulisic so it isn't like he any particular attachment to the young Pennsylvanian. (Chelsea's manager at the time, Italian Maurizio Sarri, said he knew nothing of the deal when it was announced.)
Lampard was at Derby County, where one of his players was Mason Mount, on loan from Chelsea. Lampard has a shelf stocked with players for the wide positions Pulisic plays, the 20-year-old Mount among them.
"Willian has come back in and been sharp and looked good," said Lampard after the Liverpool loss. "I decided to go with Mason today, because we needed to stay strong in midfield and play Mason high up the pitch. That is my choice to make."
Is it time to write off Pulisic? No. Chelsea has played only six Premier League games. But he is certainly the victim of his early success. He was only 17 when he enjoyed a breakout 2016-17 season with a very exciting Dortmund team.
And that hype carried over even when Pulisic didn't go the 2018 World Cup. He finished second in the voting, behind only France's Kylian Mbappe, for the 2018 Kopa Trophy, France Football's new award given to the best under-21 player in the world by a jury of former Ballon d'Or winners.
"He is actually as young, if not younger, than some of them," Lampard said of the players he is coming with for playing time. "His chances will come.”
But when he was planning out his first season in England, Pulisic probably didn't imagine that Wednesday's League Cup match against Grimsby Town might be one of those big chances for him.
Photo: Shaun Brooks/Actionplus/Icon Sportswire