For two long
stretches in the season, Pulisic was excellent for Arsenal. The first patch began in October when he scored five goals in three games, including a hat trick against Burnley. He became only the second
American after Clint Dempsey to score three goals in a game in the Premier League.
Since the Premier League's restart in June, Pulisic scored five goals and added two assists and created two goals by being fouled on plays Willian converted from the penalty spot and a third goal from a free kick by the Brazilian teammate after he was fouled.
Pulisic, in sum, was a big reason Chelsea held on to clinch fourth place and a berth in the 2020-21 UEFA Champions League, quite an accomplishment considering the team's youth and a FIFA ban on participating on the transfer market last summer.
Pulisic, who arrived on a $73 million transfer from Borussia Dortmund in a deal completed in January 2019 in anticipation that Chelsea might not be allowed to operate on the summer market, was also dogged by injuries, as he was in his last season in Germany.
An adductor injury suffered in training in early January kept him out of action until the Premier League shut down in March. It was more than five months that he didn't play until the return to play on June 21 when he came off the bench to score in a 2-1 win over Aston Villa.
Pulisic played 11 games in 42 days after the restart, one of the most intense stretches of his career. Chelsea manager Frank Lampard praised his young American for his work with the club's fitness staff. But there were signs of the toll it was taking on Pulisic, whose bursts of speed are a trademark of his game.
In the 1-0 FA Cup quarterfinal win at Leicester City on June 28, Lampard pulled him at the second-half water break because he was experiencing tightness in his calf. Lampard didn't play him in the FA Cup semifinal against Manchester City and didn't start him in the Premier League game at Liverpool because of what he described as a "minor injury." When Pulisic came on at Liverpool in the second half, he reduced the Reds' lead from 4-1 to 4-3 in 14 minutes with a goal and an assist. Liverpool went on to win, 5-3.
Pulisic's goal in the fifth minute on Saturday summed up everything that Lampard has praised him for doing -- showing a willingness to come into the middle, taking the ball quickly at defenders and following up on the play.
In a play that began with Pulisic 15 yards in the Chelsea half, he flicked a ball forward to French forward Olivier Giroud, took the ball back two passes later, turned and drove at the Arsenal goal. He played the ball off to Mason Mount charging down the left side and ran into the penalty area to take the return pass Giroud flicked on from Mount. Pulisic then beat Scotsman Kieran Tierney with his first touch and danced in alone on Arsenal goalkeeper Emiliano Martinez, whom he beat to the Argentine's right.
Pulisic wasn't the only Chelsea player who was injured in the final. Spanish defender Cesar Azpilicueta left the match in the 35th minute with a hamstring injury. Pedro, who replaced Pulisic, dislocated his shoulder in the final minutes of his last game for Chelsea. The Spanish veteran was in such pain he was administered oxygen as he left the field. N'Golo Kante injured his hamstring on July 4 and didn't play again. Willian was injured and missed the deciding Premier League game against Wolves and didn't play in the FA Cup final.
Arsenal, which finished eighth in Premier League, was clearly the better team in the final, but Lampard said the game turned on Pulisic's injury.
"In the second half," he said, "we came out brighter. If Christian goes through and scores as opposed to missing and doing his hamstring -- well, the circumstances in the game conspired against us. It’s been a busy period for us. The players have given everything."
Lampard said Chelsea shouldn't get too stuck on the disappointment of the final.
"Over the season, as a whole, what we have managed to do, come where we did in the league, is a huge plus for us," he said. "Today would have been the icing on the cake but it wasn’t to be."
Perspective that might be good to summarize the ups and downs of Pulisic's first season in England.