Pulisic Watch: How U.S. star is doing at Chelsea, game by game
Pulisic's previous games (first to last): Man United | Liverpool | Leicester | Norwich | Sheffield United | Wolves | Valencia | Liverpool | Grimsby | Brighton | Lille | Southampton | Newcastle | Ajax | Burnley | Man United | Watford | Ajax | Crystal Palace | Man City | Valencia | West Ham | Aston Villa | Everton | Lille | Bournemouth | Tottenham | Southampton
Opponent: Arsenal (2-1; Dec. 29, Premier League)
How he performed out of 10: No rating. Pulisic was not involved in the matchday squad, amid reports suggesting he had suffered a hamstring injury. The severity of the issue remains unclear, although the man himself suggested on Twitter that he will be back soon. Chelsea return to action at Brighton on New Year's Day.
How he performed out of 10: No rating. After playing no part in Chelsea's impressive 2-0 win over Tottenham, Pulisic managed 23-plus minutes off the bench on Boxing Day. Pulisic came on with the score already 0-1 and shortly after his arrival Saints doubled their lead via Nathan Redmond.
Like the majority of his teammates, nothing really came off for the American youngster on this day, with Pulisic often times getting caught holding onto possession too long or losing possession after over dribbling. The Hershey, Pennsylvania native will be hoping for better next time out when Chelsea travel to the Emirates to take on London rivals Arsenal on Sunday.
Highlights: Drew one free kick inches outside the penalty area after a good bit of skill. Nothing came from the resulting set piece but it was the American's only real contribution of note.
Opponent: Tottenham (2-0; Dec. 22, Premier League)
How he performed out of 10: No rating. For the first time since Oct. 2, Pulisic played no part in a match for Chelsea. The U.S. international remained on the bench as Frank Lampard fielded his Blues in a 3-4-2-1 that duly stifled Tottenham in a 2-0 win. Pulisic will have his chance at redemption on Thursday, when Chelsea host Southampton.
How he performed out of 10: 5 -- This was an utterly frustrating day for Pulisic and Chelsea alike, with Dan Gosling's late winner giving Bournemouth a valuable, and hugely unexpected win.
As for Pulisic, it was a match with few lows but not many highs, either. The American slogged through a quiet first half, touching the ball 17 times and attempting just nine passes. Both were season lows in league games he's started. When Pulisic did get on the ball, he rarely looked threatening. To be fair, the entire Chelsea team struggled to find its rhythm, creating looks at goal on only a couple of occasions. One such effort in the 38th minute saw Pulisic latch on to Willian's cross at the back post, but the angle was such that the American could only head the ball back towards the center and there was no one there to latch on to his knockdown.
Bournemouth had something to do with this, as its defense, at least on this day, was organized and wise to the Blues' approach. At one stage of the first half Pulisic began drifting outside to take up wider positions but there was no notable improvement. Pulisic's play perked up a bit in the second half, but only just. He shook free on the left wing in the 59th minute, but his cross to the back post didn't find Tammy Abraham. Seconds later he got a look at goal from 15 yards but the effort was deflected wide before it reached goalkeeper Aaron Ramsdale. That proved to be one of Pulisic's final contributions on the day, as he was substituted in the 65th minute, with Mateo Kovacic taking his place.
At this point of the season there are few secrets to be had. Pulisic's movements are now well-known. Granted, there are days when his ability will carry through, but it must be said that an air of predictability has crept into Chelsea's game. It doesn't help that Emerson and Pulisic don't link up much, but it will be interesting to see how the team adapts as the season progresses.
Lowlights: Pulisic and Mason Mount were in position to combine on the left wing in the 31st minute, but the two weren't on the same page as the American cut towards goal when Mount was expecting him to provide support, resulting in a turnover. Pulisic tried a bit of trickery near the halfway line early in the second half, resulting in a giveaway, but Chelsea's defense was able to win it back.
Highlights: A trademark Chelsea (and Pulisic) move in the fifth saw Pulisic collect the ball in a central position and then release Willian in space down the right wing, but the subsequent cross was deflected to goalkeeper. That just before he was substituted saw him do well to get some space and strike at goal, but Ramsdale was equal to the task.
Opponent: Lille (2-1; Dec. 10, Champions League)
How he performed out of 10: 7 -- After being on the receiving end of some physical play in last weekend's frustrating defeat against Everton, Pulisic bounced back with an improved performance. Granted, it helped that the Blues were going up against a Lille side that had nothing to play for in the Champions League, but Chelsea -- wanting to keep their destiny in their hands -- desired full points to guarantee advancement to the knockout stages, and the American did his bit to ensure his side's progression.
Pulisic was nominally lined up on the left flank, but as has been the case so often this season, he was most effective when drifting inside and taking up central positions in support of Tammy Abraham. That combination worked a treat in the 19th minute when the two combined, allowing Pulisic to slip a pass to Willian, whose low centering feed was side-footed into the net by Abraham. When Cesar Azpilicueta nodded home Emerson's corner in the 35th minute, Chelsea were cruising.
The American was involved in the second half, as well, but both he and Chelsea couldn't quite add to their advantage. Pulisic was subbed off to a standing ovation in the 62nd minute, proof of the extent that he has endeared himself to the club's faithful. Thirty minutes later, the Blues were celebrating their advancement to the round of 16, although Loic Remy's 78th-minute goal on his return to Stamford Bridge added some unneeded tension to the proceedings.
Lowlights: There weren't many, but Pulisic's finishing left a bit to be desired. He'll wish he had done better in the 10th minute when he collected Abraham's layoff and created space for himself, only to drag his shot wide. A 46th-minute drive from inside the box was hit straight at Lille keeper Mike Maignan.
Highlights: Pulisic's secondary assist on Abraham's opener showed off his sharp movement and field awareness to pick out William. Pulisic found Emerson 11 minutes later, only for the Italy international to fire straight at keeper. The American went on a mazy run through four Lille defenders in the 34th minute, but his cross was cut out by the visiting defense.
He shook free in the 57th minute with a series of stepovers, but his cross was headed away. Pulisic managed to thread the needle to Abraham in the 61st minute, but the Chelsea forward lost his bearings a bit and the opportunity was lost.
Opponent: Everton (1-3; Dec. 7, Premier League)
How he performed out of 10: 5 -- Did little before Everton scored early and was let down by a poor pass from Cesar Azpilicueta when he could have gone through on goal. The Toffees, keen to impress interim manager Duncan Ferguson after the sacking of Marco Silva this week, pressed everything and Pulisic struggled to get himself into the game before good work from Tammy Abraham gave him a chance to cross, but it was blocked. Willian's poor touch should have given him another chance to score but it was too heavy when Everton's Michael Keane made a mess of a clearance. And it was the story of the half when his pace and trickery opened up more chances before the break, only to see resolute defending keep him at bay.
He could only watch as another quick goal early in the second half put Chelsea 2-0 down, while he had no impact for Mateo Kovacic's strike to get the Blues back into it. Frustration was the order of the day, epitomised by some good skills in the box on 61 minutes which ultimately saw him crowded out and throw his hands up in anger. Clashed with right-back Djibril Sidibe throughout and the Everton man seemed to get the better of the physical battle.
Falling flat on his backside as he thought he was nudged off the ball, his protestations went unheard by the referee. His understanding with Azpilicueta seemed to go out the window in the first half as there were a number of missed passes going astray and everything he tried seemed to just fall short. A great chance to score in the final minutes saw a header hit straight at Jordan Pickford and his day was summed up by a foul throw just before the whistle sounded.
Made an excellent run from halfway with the ball at his feet on 24 minutes, but Keane did well to track him all the way and block his cross. Just before half-time Pulisic used his pace to break into the box but Lucas Digne cut out his low cross right on the goalline. Almost got on the end of a few chances but was just a step behind.
How he performed out of 10: 6 -- This was a match that in many ways was similar to last weekend's defeat to West Ham United. Chelsea once again dominated possession, but this time they found their cutting edge in front of goal.
As for Pulisic, some early runs hinted at a big night for the American, but after those early forays he was quiet for the remainder of the half. He was certainly mobile enough off the ball, but his teammates seemed reluctant to feed him in the central positions in which he thrives.
Pulisic's play perked up in the second period, along with that of the whole Chelsea side, and on the night he was tidy with his passing, connecting on 30 of 34 attempts. He was guilty of forcing the issue on the dribble at times, carrying the ball into traffic only to lose possession. But the positive was that he was aggressive and he eventually recalibrated his decision-making in terms of whether to pass, dribble or shoot. He showed his trademark quick feet in setting up Cesar Azpilicueta for a cross, and he later shook free for a shot in the 77th minute forced a sharp save from Villa keeper Tom Heaton.
Pulisic eventually made way for Callum Hudson-Odoi in the 86th minute. It wasn't a surprise given how Mason Mount -- scorer of the game-winner -- and Willian were more influential on the night.
Lowlights: Pulisic was dispossessed a team-high three times in the first half.
Highlights: The American created considerable danger in the fifth minute with a lengthy run that started from inside his own half and ended in the opposition penalty area when he fed Willian, but the Brazilian's shot was saved. Taking up a central position once again, Pulisic's pass teed up Mount for a look at goal but the shot was high. Pulisic's aforementioned run in the 77th minute really deserved a goal given the sharp touches required to break free, but Heaton was equal to his goalbound attempt.
Opponent: West Ham (0-1; Nov. 30, Premier League)
How he performed out of 10: 5 -- It was a day of frustration for both the Blues and Pulisic. Chelsea dominated territorially from the opening whistle, and in the first half Pulisic was involved in many of the Blues' best moves. His 42 first-half touches were the most he has had in any game for Chelsea this season, and he linked up well with left-back Emerson Palmieri. But the final pass was missing that bit of precision, including one telling ball for Pedro in the 16th minute that just evaded the Spaniard and went straight to keeper David Martin. Pulisic nearly grabbed a goal in first-half stoppage time, but he couldn't redirect Reece James' cross on goal.
Pulisic's influence waned in the second half, although the entire Chelsea side became increasingly frustrated, especially after Aaron Cresswell put the Hammers in front against the run of play in the 48th minute. The goal left West Ham in a position where it was content to defend even more, and to the Hammers' credit, they did so stoutly.
Pulisic was moved into a central striker role with about 20 minutes to go, which counted as a surprise given that Michy Batshuayi was available on the bench. It was a move that didn't play to Pulisic's strengths given the bunkered-in nature of the Hammers' defense, and only on rare occasions did he get the ball in any kind of space. He did shake free for a shot on goal in the 89th minute, but failed to hit the target.
As unsatisfying as the performance was for Pulisic, his recent excellent run of form means his place in the lineup remains secure. His competitors for playing time fared no better on the day. Pedro, making his first appearance in a month, was substituted in the 63rd minute and Mason Mount was unable to make much of an impact either.
Lowlights: In the 10th minute, Pulisic looked to have a header from Pedro's cross lined up for an attempt at goal, but he appeared to mistime his leap and could only put his shot well over the bar. The American had a chance to snatch an equalizer in the 89th minute but he failed to hit the target from 14 yards.
Highlights: Pulisic showed off his quick feet to break into space in the 20th minute, setting up Emerson for a cross, but nothing came of the foray. Seven minutes later, Pulisic slipped in Olivier Giroud for a clever pass into the box, but the attempted cross was cut out for a corner.
How he performed out of 10: 7 -- An effective goal-scoring performance from Pulisic on a night in which Chelsea needed three points in order to book their place in the round of 16, but fell agonisingly short following Daniel Wass' stunning 83rd-minute equaliser. He routinely looked dangerous with the ball at his feet, creating space and opportunities for himself and teammates with several successful dribbles. His six take-ons led all Chelsea players.
Pulisic's 50th-minute goal ensured the Blues a share of the spoils at the Mestalla, his intelligent positioning putting him in place to quickly pounce on a Kurt Zouma header and poke it home past Jasper Cillessen. The American was able to celebrate his contribution twice, with a lengthy VAR review giving both Pulisic and his teammates opportunity to relive that goal-scoring elation all over again. It was his third Champions League goal -- one shy of the record for a U.S. international, held by DaMarcus Beasley with four -- and his sixth overall this season, one shy of his career high of seven at Borussia Dortmund.
His passing was typically crisp, putting his teammates in advantageous positions. At times, his decision-making could be questioned, but by and large, Pulisic was as dangerous passing the ball on as he was with it in his feet, completing 30 of his 36 attempts.
He did struggle to be effective once Frank Lampard switched to a five-man defence in the game's closing stages, but few of the Blues' attackers stood out once it was clear the visitors were holding on for their share of the spoils. His contribution was underlined by the fact that when Lampard removed an attacker with his final substitution, it was Willian who made way, not Pulisic.
Lowlights: His heavy first touch foiled a scoring opportunity from a one-two exchange with Mateo Kovacic, whose close control in the middle and attacking thirds created ample opportunities for Chelsea. Another poor touch later in the first half conceded possession in the middle third, a mistake that could have proved costly in a match in which Valencia were constantly menacing in transition. Finally, with Chelsea breaking into the Valencia box and the ball at Pulisic's feet, his tame square ball was easily picked out when there were a plethora of options available to choose from.
Highlights: There was the goal, of course. His intelligent positioning put him in place to pounce incredibly quickly on the header won by Zouma, slipping home the goal that would salvage a point from their trip to the Mestalla. He nearly added an assist in the 44th minute, playing in the confidence-filled Kovacic as the Blues broke into the Valencia box, only the reactions and powerful hands of Cillessen keeping out the Croatia international's effort.
How he performed out of 10: 5 -- Pulisic sat out both U.S. games over the international break due to a hip injury, but he recovered sufficiently to remain in Chelsea's starting XI for this match at the Etihad. He looked bright for the first 25 minutes, taking up good positions in the center of the field, connecting with teammates and causing problems when he ran at the Manchester City defense. But his influence waned as the first half progressed, with the entire Chelsea team becoming more error prone.
Once Jorginho's giveaway led to Kevin De Bruyne's equalizer in the 29th minute, the confidence level of the Blues plummeted, and they found it difficult to penetrate City's attacking third. After Riyad Mahrez put City ahead in the 37th minute, Chelsea rarely looked capable of conjuring up an equalizer. Pulisic did break into the clear on the left wing in first-half stoppage time, but his cross was cut out by the City defense.
The second half didn't see much uptick in Pulisic's form, as the game lacked the rhythm of the first 45 minutes. Other than a late sequence where he set up Willian, there wasn't much else that was notable about Pulisic's performance.
The quality of the opponent certainly has to be taken into account, especially given that it's a City side that loves to have the ball. But this wasn't an instance where Chelsea bunkered in and the Blues carried a slight possession edge over the course of the match. For that reason, there's disappointment that Pulisic didn't do more to impose himself. That said, City defended better in transition as the game went on.
Joao Cancelo glided past Pulisic easily in the 40th minute, leading to a De Bruyne cross that was eventually cleared. He also appeared to fall asleep on a set piece in the 56th minute, with Cancelo running into space behind the American to get an attempt at goal.
Pulisic cut in from the wing in typical fashion in the 11th minute, teeing up N'Golo Kante just outside the box, but the Frenchman's first touch didn't set up him for a shot, and he elected to pass to Tammy Abraham. Did well to tee up Willian for at attempt at goal in the 80th minute, but the Brazilian's shot was touched over the bar by Ederson.
How he performed out of 10: 8. For the fifth time in three Premier League matches, Pulisic found the back of the net to cap a very good performance in helping lead Chelsea to a 2-0 home win over Crystal Palace.
Forming part of the youngest-ever Chelsea starting XI in the Premier League, Pulisic got his first touch inside the first 20 seconds and his first shot in just the seventh minute, which he sprayed wide of the near post after cutting in from the left.
That was followed by his best moment of the first 45 minutes when he used his movement and pace to glide past the Palace defense, but saw his shot saved by Palace stopper Vicente Guaita. The chance reflected the brimming confidence that Pulisic is feeling at the moment heading into the international break, a stark contrast to the table scraps for minutes he was reduced to prior to last month's international break. He was calling for the ball in traffic, did not hesitate to dribble at defenders and looked comfortable in close control situations.
An excellent first touch led to another great scoring chance in the second half right before the hour mark, yet Palace goalkeeper Guaita did well to deny Pulisic's right-footed effort. However, the Spanish shot-stopper could do nothing to stop Pulisic's 79th-minute header that put the three points on ice for the Blues. The goal never would have happened, though, without Pulisic's surgical pass into Michy Batshuayi, whose deflected shot allowed Pulisic to pounce.
It should also be said that there were still times when he tried to do too much with the ball and his crossing also left something to be desired, including one early in the second half that put a screeching halt to a Chelsea break. But overall, it was another very good outing for the Hersey, Pennsylvania, native and was worthy of the applause he received when manager Frank Lampard substituted him off in the 80th minute right after his goal.
Lowlights: The biggest shortcoming on the day for Pulisic was his crossing. A first-half chance went awry when he floated a ball over everyone, and a 56th-minute break was spoiled when Pulisic sent his cross from the left straight to a Palace defender when there were two blue shirts with space in the area. He also could be accused of holding onto the ball too long when a surrounded by defenders, including one moment at the very start of the second half.
Highlights: His chance in the 12th minute was Chelsea's best scoring opportunity in the first half, with his movement sending Palace defender Joel Ward flying on his backside. A heavy touch at the end allowed Guaita to save, but it was fine work from the American. Just before the hour mark, Pulisic nearly pulled off a superb goal thanks to an excellent first touch, allowing him to dart past two defenders and fire a right-footer that required a big save from Guaita. His nose for goal would rise to the fore though, and after falling while playing a pass to Batshuayi, Pulisic scrambled to his feet and was at the right place and right time to push home his header. -- Arch Bell
Opponent: Ajax (4-4; Nov. 5, Champions League)
How he performed out of 10: 6. This encounter was as wild a game as you'd ever want to see. Chelsea's performance was all over the place, trailing 4-1 at one point before rallying for a draw with the help of red cards to Ajax defenders Joel Veltman and Daley Blind. Pulisic played his part in the chaos, winning a first-half penalty and then assisting on Cesar Azpilicueta's 63rd minute goal which sparked the comeback. But his performance was also inconsistent, mirroring his team's play for much of the night.
Winning an early spot kick ought to have boded well for Pulisic, but he struggled for much of the first 30 minutes. The American was unable to get on the ball very often and didn't do much with it when he did. Pulisic wasn't alone it must be said, as Chelsea's attack sputtered. Pulisic perked up over the last 15 minutes of the first half, connecting on his passes with more regularity and running at the defense with aggression.
The second half saw Pulisic more involved. Initially, the American either wasn't on the same page with his teammates, or his delivery was poor. But his secondary assist on Azpilicueta's goal breathed some life into the home side.
One would have thought that the two red cards would have benefited the American given the additional space on the field, but he was guilty of over-elaborating on the ball on occasion, and wasn't as impactful as he might have been.
Lowlights: Penalty win aside, Pulisic looked well off the pace for the first 30 minutes, capped off by a dreadful set piece delivery that went straight to keeper Andre Onana. Pulisic had an opportunity to do some damage in the 55th minute, but his pass to Azpilicueta on the overlap was poor. A stoppage-time chance fell to Pulisic, but his first touch let him down and the ball was cleared.
Highlights: Pulisic didn't take long to make an impact, winning a penalty in the third minute, though it did look like he hurdled Veltman's challenge. Jorginho converted to bring the Blues level. A darting run in the 40th minute saw Pulisic look more like himself, but his centering feed was cleared for a corner. Pulisic was involved in the buildup to Azpilicueta's goal, as his centering feed to Tammy Abraham was touched to the far post for the Spaniard to tap in.
Opponent: Watford (2-1; Nov. 2, Premier League)
How he performed out of 10: 8. The first half was a bit stop-start for the American. He proved adept at breaking Watford's defensive pressure, twice evading Nathaniel Chalobah to create some transition moments for the Blues. After Pulisic had a header superbly saved by Watford keeper Ben Foster, he and Chelsea tapered off as the half progressed, with Watford trying to crawl back in the game following Tammy Abraham's fifth-minute opener.
The second half saw both Pulisic and his teammates turn things up a notch, with the U.S. forward becoming more dangerous around goal. He tallied his fourth goal in the span of a week, side-footing home Abraham's centering feed. His movement in particular, feinting to the far post before darting in front of his marker, as well as his timing revealed a player becoming more comfortable with his teammates and surroundings. His four league goals on the season are already a career high.
Overall it was another strong performance for the American, even as he was subbed off for Calum Hudson-Odoi in the 83rd minute. Pulisic has emerged as a steadier contributor to the Chelsea attack, both in terms of the buildup when he runs at opponents, as well as finishing off plays. It was also an improvement over a somewhat subdued performance in the midweek Carabao Cup defeat to Manchester United, and at this stage, Pulisic remains firmly in manager Frank Lampard's plans.
Highlights: Who knew that Pulisic was such an aerial threat? A week after scoring with a header against Burnley, the U.S. international nearly duplicated the effort in the 19th minute, only to be denied by a superb save from Foster. Pulisic showed good attention to defensive detail, recovering to win the ball back following his own misplaced pass.
Pulisic scored a valuable insurance goal (and the eventual game-winner) converting from close range in the 55th minute. Just minutes later he nearly grabbed a second, only to have his tight-angled shot denied by the left foot of the in-form Foster.
Lowlights: Pulisic had a chance to run at the defense with the game just two minutes old but a heavy touch killed the opportunity. In the 21st minute he was robbed of the ball in the attacking half starting a Watford counter, but Mateo Kovacic defused the threat.
How he performed out of 10: 6. There was little decisive about Pulisic's 70-minute shift at Stamford Bridge. He played plenty of safe balls, often deferring to Marcos Alonso to quarterback Chelsea's left side, but he rarely took the initiative. The few times he did, he looked threatening, but it occurred far too infrequently.
Part of Pulisic's subdued evening can be attributed to the effectiveness of Manchester United's back three, which largely kept Chelsea's attacking trident quiet all night. But given that he was dangerous when running at defenders and combining with those around him, this seems like another instance of Pulisic playing it too safe.
Highlights: His slick run and interchange with Michy Batshuayi started the move that should've ended in a goal from Callum Hudson-Odoi, but the 18-year-old scuffed his chance. Ten minutes later, Pulisic dropped into midfield to get on the ball and picked up his head to find a streaking Hudson-Odoi with a long ball over the top, but the England international wasn't able to keep his effort down.
Lowlights: There were few to speak of. But spearheading a move in transition in which his run backed off the United defence, Pulisic opted for a shot through a sea of legs -- a shot that was ultimately dragged wide -- when the opportunity was there to play in Billy Gilmour behind the back line.
How he performed out of 10: 10 There has been plenty of talk about how Pulisic would have to take advantage when his chance came. Making his first start since Aug. 31, he did that and more against Burnley, scoring his first three competitive goals for the Blues in a dominant display.
Two of the goals came with Pulisic doing what he does best: collecting the ball in space and then running at defenders. This was true whether he started in central positions or out wide and then cutting in. There were other moments besides the goal sequences when he drew opponents to him and then set up teammates for looks at goal.
The goals themselves were big for a few reasons. Pulisic lost his spot in the lineup primarily because of a lack of end product. He returned to the starting XI due to some impactful performances off the bench that saw him set up teammates for critical goals. Now that he's among the scoring as well, he has surely cemented himself into the plans of manager Frank Lampard.
As for Pulisic's confidence, it had been building for some time but will now skyrocket, and his hat trick -- the first of his career -- will confirm the extent to which he's settling into the squad and life in England. The smiles on his teammates' faces are testament to that. That doesn't mean all of the pressure has evaporated, of course; there is still competition for places through Callum Hudson-Odoi, and even as Pedro faces an uncertain future at Stamford Bridge, the recovery of Ruben Loftus-Cheek will bear watching. But given the form that Pulisic finds himself in at the moment, his spot in the starting lineup seems secure.
Highlights: It was a while in coming, but Pulisic will relish his first Premier League goal. He took advantage of Matthew Lowton's inability to control the ball, set off on a surging run and then finished sharply through a thicket of legs.
It didn't take long for the American to bag his second. He collected a loose ball at the center circle, took off on another long run into the box and fired toward goal, his deflected effort off Burnley defender Ben Mee sneaking inside the near post. The U.S. star completed his hat trick in the 56th minute. A Chelsea corner was cleared back to Mason Mount, who served the ball in for Pulisic to score with a deft header.
Lowlights: One could quibble with some of Pulisic's decision-making in transition, as well as losing possession in the buildup to Burnley's late consolation goal, but there can be few complaints about a magical day for the American.
Opponent: Ajax (1-0; Oct. 23, Champions League)
How he performed out of 10: 8 It looks like Pulisic is getting the hang of this "super sub" role, as he made a significant impact off the bench for the third match running and this performance might very well have been his best in this spell.
Pulisic came on for Willian in the 66th minute and slotted into the left side of midfield. Chelsea's attack, which had been subdued in the second half, immediately perked up as Pulisic looked to run at Ajax's defense -- and at Sergino Dest in particular -- at every opportunity. The American even had a shot blocked in the 73rd minute that found Michy Batshuayi in the box, only for the Chelsea forward to blaze his shot over the bar.
The assist on the game-winner was classic Pulisic, as he found a sliver of space, put his low pass between Dest's legs and the ball found its way to Batshuayi, who cannoned his shot off the underside of the bar and in. The performance will not only give manager Frank Lampard more faith in Pulisic's ability, but his teammates as well, who in recent weeks have done a better job of finding the American in dangerous spots. Pulisic certainly seems more at home than at any time this season, becoming more of a consistent presence in the Blues' attack.
At this stage, short of scoring a goal, Pulisic has done just about all he can to stake a claim to a spot in the starting lineup, short of scoring a goal. This weekend's EPL clash against Burnley will reveal if Lampard deems Pulisic's performances good enough to make the starting XI.
Highlights: Pulisic started quickly after entering the match with 24 minutes to go. In the 72nd minute, he slipped a pass to Batshuayi in the box, but the Belgian's shot was hit weakly right at Ajax keeper Andre Onana. Pulisic later played a key role in Batshuayi's game-winner, beating international teammate Dest on the left wing to deliver a low ball that was dummied by Marcos Alonso and found Batshuayi to fire home.
Lowlights: If there was one quibble in what was an otherwise sparkling performance off the bench, it was Pulisic's finishing. The American combined with Batshuayi and had a clear look at goal in the 81st minute, but couldn't hit the target.
How he performed out of 10: 7. Unlike his last substitute appearance against Southampton back on Oct. 6, when the game was already decided, Pulisic entered this match with plenty on the line. The Blues hadn't been able to break down Newcastle, and the American came on in the 64th minute for Mason Mount.
He didn't disappoint.
Operating out of more central positions, Pulisic delivered a sharp performance off the bench, making good decisions on when to dribble or pass, as well as smart runs off the ball. His secondary assist on Marcos Alonso's goal speaks to how the American made the most of his 27 minutes.
Without question, being a super-sub isn't the role that Pulisic envisioned for himself when he signed on with Chelsea, especially given the $73 million price tag that was attached to him. He'll also want the clear scoring chance he had back. But gaining the trust of the manager has to start somewhere, and the fact that Pulisic has now delivered consecutive impactful performances as a substitute should stand him in good stead with manager Frank Lampard.
Wednesday's UEFA Champions League match on the road against Ajax will reveal just how much the American has moved up the Chelsea pecking order.
Highlights: The American didn't let his squandered opportunity bring him down, as his was involved in the buildup to Alonso's 74th-minute winner. Pulisic's surging run into the box drew several Newcastle defenders to him, his low centering feed found Callum Hudson-Odoi, who set up Alonso's low strike.
Pulisic nearly set up a second for Chelsea as he fed Tammy Abraham with the goal begging, only for the forward's shot to be deflected out by Newcastle defender DeAndre Yedlin.
Lowlights: Pulisic had a glorious chance to grab his first Chelsea goal in the 68th minute, but could only put his close-range shot right at Newcastle keeper Martin Dubravka.
How he performed out of 10: 7. With Chelsea already 3-1 up when Pulisic entered the match in the 80th minute, there wasn't a whole lot of urgency by the Blues in terms of committing numbers forward. But the American seemed intent on making an impression -- even in his limited minutes -- with some bright off-the-ball movement. With just a minute of normal time left, he took up an aggressive position near the top of the penalty area, received a pass from Michy Batshuayi and then slid a lovely return feed that allowed the Belgian to fire home Chelsea's fourth goal. It was Pulisic's fourth assist on the season.
Was it enough to possibly shoehorn his way into the starting XI for Chelsea's next fixture against Newcastle United on Oct. 19? That still seems unlikely. Manager Frank Lampard will be reluctant to break up a winning side, and each of the players Pulisic is competing with for playing time can also point to moments where they made an impact. Mason Mount scored Chelsea's second; Willian assisted on that tally and had some surging runs forward; Callum Hudson-Odoi's long pass set up Tammy Abraham for Chelsea's opener. Hudson-Odoi did squander some clear opportunities, so there may be an opening there, but he also created two additional chances as the Blues generally tore Southampton apart in the opening 45 minutes. This remains a tough lineup to crack.
At least the 11-minute stint allowed Pulisic to make some tangible contributions that will help his confidence. The international break now begins, with the American set to contribute to the U.S. team's efforts in the CONCACAF Nations League.
Highlights: The fact that Pulisic saw the field in a league match for the first time since Aug. 31 counts as a highlight, coming on for Hudson-Odoi in the 79th minute. The American also took advantage of his opportunity, setting up Batshuayi's goal in the 89th minute.
Lowlights: Had one giveaway near midfield and subsequent foul, but no huge errors.
How he performed out of 10: No rating. Having travelled to France, Pulisic was somewhat surprisingly left out of Frank Lampard's 18-man gameday squad. There was no word ahead of kickoff that he had picked up an injury, but his latest absence means the American has played no part in five of Chelsea's last six games.
Chelsea, who won 2-1 to claim their first Champions League points of the season, visit Southampton on Sunday. Pulisic then travels across the Atlantic to link up with his national team for a pair of CONCACAF Nations League games.
Opponent: Brighton (2-0; Sept. 28, Premier League)
How he performed out of 10: No rating. For the fourth time in Chelsea's last five competitive fixtures, Christian Pulisic was an unused substitute as the Blues claimed a home win over Brighton & Hove Albion. Manager Frank Lampard opted to deploy Mason Mount, Pedro, Ross Barkley and Willian in support of striker Tammy Abraham.
In a sign of how far Pulisic has perhaps fallen down the Blues' depth chart, Lampard opted for Callum Hudson-Odoi to come on for Pedro in the 63rd minute and the Chelsea academy product made the most of his time on the field, leading a counterattack to set up Willian for Chelsea's second goal in the 76th minute.
At this stage, and barring a spate of injuries to his competition, it's difficult to see how Pulisic can get on the field in the near term.
Opponent: Grimsby (7-1; Sept. 25, Carabao Cup)
Stats: Pulisic had an assist -- his third for Chelsea -- but was unable to make any of his three shots count as his first goal for the club. He took 52 touches in his 90 minutes of work and had a 73.5% pass completion rate.
How he performed out of 10: 6. Pulisic was mobile and active, but oftentimes his runs weren't rewarded with a pass from a teammate. Aside from Michy Batshuayi's goal, he was largely quiet for the first half hour, but he began finding himself isolated against Liam Gibson more thereafter, and was a threat from the right flank for the remainder of the first half.
Initially in the second half, Pulisic continued to excel with his movement, but was either unable to make things happen on the ball or his teammates couldn't find him. That eventually changed as he had the aforementioned two looks at goal. The late assist was his most tangible contribution on the night.
All told, Pulisic was solid. Was it enough to alter the thinking of manager Frank Lampard heading into the league fixture this weekend against Brighton & Hove Albion? That seems unlikely. Not only was he playing against fourth-tier opposition, but the likes of Callum Hudson-Odoi did more to impress on the night. The competition for playing time isn't getting any easier.
Highlights: Pulisic was involved in the run-up to Batshuayi's seventh-minute tally, playing Reece James in behind the Grimsby defense. He nearly latched on to James' return feed only for Batshuayi to collect and score off the turn.
A darting run in the 28th minute in which he evaded Gibson resulted in him being hauled down by Matthew Green. Pulisic then began having more success, delivering some telling crosses. While Pulisic's defense hasn't always been sharp since moving to Chelsea, he tracked back deep in his own half to win the ball with a clean tackle in the 32nd minute.
While Pulisic was unable to put two second-half opportunities on goal, he was consistently putting himself in good positions, including one exchange with James in the 65th minute and another from Barkley seven minutes later. Pulisic ended the night by assisting on Batshuayi's 86th-minute goal.
Lowlights: There weren't too many to speak of really, although he and James were beaten pretty easily in the 22nd minute that allowed Grimsby to get a cross in, although the shot from James Hanson was wide. In the second half he twice got looks at goal but failed to hit the target on both occasions.
How he performed out of 10: No rating. Pulisic remained on the bench again this Sunday and watched on as his team lost 2-1 at home to Liverpool. To be fair to the 21-year-old, two injuries in the first half to defenders Emerson and Andreas Christensen required changes as Marcos Alonso and Kurt Zouma were drafted in. The final switch, following N'Golo Kante's 71st minute goal, was a like-for-like swap as natural center-forward Michy Batshuayi replaced Tammy Abraham as the main focal point of the attack.
It represents more disappointment early in the U.S. star's Chelsea career, but this time, events conspired against him.
How he performed out of 10: No rating. Is it time to worry about Pulisic's place in the Chelsea squad? It's worth noting that the season -- including the UEFA Super Cup match against Liverpool -- is now a mere eight matches old. There is still plenty of time for his move to Chelsea to work out.
Yet the fact that Pulisic failed to get on the field for the second consecutive match after returning from international duty early doesn't bode well, and hints that he hasn't won the trust of manager Frank Lampard. To be fair, Pulisic has only shown flashes of form this season, so Lampard is well within his rights to scan his roster and look for other options. Calum Hudson-Odoi is due back soon as well, so Pulisic's situation isn't going to get any easier.
Overall, things don't look good in the short term for Pulisic, although how much squad rotation Lampard opts for this weekend at home to Liverpool remains to be seen.
Lowlights: It was bad enough that Pulisic began the game on the bench after having played no part in the Blues' 5-2 win over Wolves at the weekend, but the optics got worse when Mason Mount was forced out of the match in the 15th minute due to a right ankle injury.
One might have expected Pulisic to step in, yet Lampard opted for former Spain international Pedro instead, hinting that Pulisic has fallen quite a way down the Blues' pecking order. With the game winding down, and Chelsea in need of a goal, Lampard opted for Ross Barkley in midfield rather than Pulisic.
Opponent: Wolves (5-2; Sept. 14, Premier League)
How he performed out of 10: No rating. With Frank Lampard opting for a 3-4-2-1 alignment, Pulisic began the match among the substitutes. Given that the American returned from international duty early, that counts as a disappointment, although how much of that was due to the fact that Chelsea face Valencia in the UEFA Champions League on Tuesday remains to be seen.
The Blues certainly didn't miss Pulisic in this match, as Chelsea raced out to a 3-0 half-time lead and rode Tammy Abraham's hat trick to a 5-2 victory. Willian, Pulisic's replacement, didn't create much on the day, but with Lampard forced to make two injury-induced substitutions for Abraham and Antonio Rudiger, there was no room on the field for Pulisic.
Next up for Chelsea is Tuesday's aforementioned Champions League encounter against Valencia at Stamford Bridge.
Stats: Pulisic made 82.9% of his passes but didn't create a chance, nor register an assist. He played the full 90 minutes for the first time but had only one shot on goal.
How he performed out of 10: 5. Given that Chelsea had 61.9% possession, one might have expected Pulisic to be more impactful in the attack, but one could say that about the entire Chelsea team, as Mason Mount fared no better. There are also some days when there's only so much that the opposition gives you, and Sheffield United were determined to take away space behind the defense.
To Pulisic's credit, he did what he could to get into the game. Touches were difficult for him to come by over the first 20 minutes, but he found more success when he started taking up more central positions, allowing him to run at the defense more and combine with the likes of Ross Barkley and Tammy Abraham.
All of that said, this was a game much like the one against Leicester City two weeks ago where there was little in the way of end product for Pulisic, and he struggled to get the ball in positions where he could do damage. Given the fitness issues facing some of Chelsea's other attacking options, Pulisic is likely to keep his place, but with the Blues struggling for results, it will be interesting to see how patient manager Frank Lampard is with the American.
Highlights: Pulisic was a significant factor in the run-up to Abraham's 19th-minute opener. Not only did he get the ball out wide to Cesar Azpilicueta, but his touch on Abraham's subsequent header prevented Sheffield United keeper Dean Henderson from collecting the ball, allowing Abraham to slam home the rebound.
One of his trademark runs at the defense saw him win a free kick in a dangerous position in the 31st minute. On the defensive side, he showed plenty of tenacity to win the ball back from Enda Stevens and win a foul in the 54th minute.
Lowlights: Pulisic cut a peripheral figure in attack for much of the match and created little off the dribble. He lost one defensive duel with Stevens in the 70th minute that led to an opportunity for the visitors, but Oliver Norwood's subsequent shot was easily saved by Kepa. Pulisic also didn't do enough to cut out the entry pass from Norwood to Callum Robinson that led to Kurt Zouma's own goal.
With the international window kicking in, the Blues' next match won't take place until Sept. 14 when they face Wolves away.
Opponent: Norwich (3-2; Aug. 24, Premier League)
Stats: Started and played 84 minutes before being substituted for Willian. He didn't score but he picked up an assist and created three chances. He made 84.2% of his passes and 86.4% in the final third.
How he performed out of 10: 7. Playing on the right wing after Pedro's injury in the warm-up, Pulisic set up a goal and won for the first time as a Chelsea player. He picked up a 17th-minute assist as he drifted inside to slot the ball to Mason Mount, who cut back across his man and finished well.
In the second half he wasted a chance to put his name on the score sheet by blasting into the side netting when through on the goalkeeper. Overall, he was a good attacking threat and though he disappeared a bit in the second half, he still carved out chances.
Highlights: Provided the overlap ball to Cesar Azpilicueta to cross for Tammy Abraham's opener and was full of running to close down the defenders in the early stages. A good one-two with Mateo Kovacic almost opened up some space for a second goal before the Croatian's cross came to nothing, but then he bagged an assist of his own as he found space to feed Mount for the second goal.
Just before half-time, Pulisic did well to take down a long ball and turn brilliantly in the box, but his shot was blocked. Minutes later, good control saw him set up Ross Barkley for a shot that flew over. A run down the right late in the second half set up the England midfielder again only for his shot to be charged down, before Pulisic's excellent low cross was kept out on 80 minutes.
Lowlights: He let Emiliano Buendia glide past him too easily for Todd Cantwell to score, and Chelsea lacked width on the right as Pulisic kept drifting inside, though he showed how dangerous he is there by assisting Mount from a central position. On 22 minutes, he found space in the box only to lose his footing and fall over comically, much to the joy of the Norwich fans.
One minute into the second half, Pulisic was set free down the right but seemed to panic when faced with the goalkeeper and shot into the side netting. He took a while to get his confidence back after that and it was understandable that he was subbed off. He has yet to finish a game he has started.
Next Saturday, the Blues will take on Sheffield United at Stamford Bridge.
Opponent: Leicester (1-1; Aug. 18, Premier League)
Stats: Started and played 71 minutes before making way for Willian. Zero goals or assists. 18 of 21 passes completed.
How he performed out of 10: 5. Overall, this was a pretty anonymous performance for the American. Pulisic was plenty involved in the game's first 15 minutes, when Chelsea were rampant and Mason Mount scored in the seventh minute. But his contribution consisted mostly of keeping the attack ticking over. When Leicester finally settled into the match, Pulisic had little to no impact, especially in the final third.
That trend continued into the second half, and he was substituted in the 70th minute. That isn't all down to him mind you. The play of the entire team fell off, but it wasn't the kind of performance that will send the hearts of Chelsea fans (and U.S. supporters too) fluttering. With Willian returning to full fitness, it will be interesting to see if Pulisic's minutes are impacted.
Highlights: Pulisic had some bright moments early. He nearly latched on to a rebound from Mason Mount's shot in the second minute, only for his attempt to be spoiled by Ricardo Pereira. His flick-on from the ensuing corner was enticing, but there was no one at the far post.
The American was involved in the buildup to a 26th minute opportunity when he played Emerson down the left wing. The Italy international's cross was back-heeled by Olivier Giroud to N'Golo Kante, but the shot was wide. The fact that those count as highlights is illustrative of the kind of day Pulisic had.
- Chelsea player ratings: Azpilicueta a 5/10 as Blues drop points
Lowlights: There were no glaring errors by Pulisic, but little in the way of standout moments either. Some of this was down to the fact that Chelsea's attack was tilted a bit more to Pedro's side during the early exchanges. Pulisic and Pedro switched sides at one point in the first half, but there was no uptick in form for Pulisic. He was soon back on the left wing. While Pulisic's passing was sharp (18/21), he was dispossessed a team-high six times.
Opponent: Liverpool (2-2; Aug. 14, UEFA Super Cup)
Stats: Started and played 74 minutes: zero goals, one assist, 74.1% pass completion percentage (20-27), two chances created, two shots, no shots on goal, 50 touches and three successful take-ons.
How he performed (out of 10): 6. Pulisic's first Chelsea start made him the second American -- after Jovan Kirovski with Borussia Dormtund in 1997 -- to play in this match. This was a performance to build on for the American, and his assist will begin to ease at least some of concerns about how long it will take him to settle into the side, or his ability to compete at the Premier League level. There will be disappointment that his goal was disallowed, but without question he showed his quality.
Clearly, Pulisic's best spell came in the last 20 minutes of the first half. In the second half he remained active, having had a few shots blocked by the Liverpool defense, but he wasn't quite as impactful as he was in the opening 45 minutes. Liverpool were in the ascendency to begin the second half and his passing began to erode a bit. That said, this match was a step forward for Pulisic, despite the end result.
"There's more to come from Pulisic. We must remember his age, he's only 20," Chelsea manager Frank Lampard said after the match. "It took him a bit to get into the game but when he got into it we saw what a player her is and that's a good sign for the club."
Highlights: Pulisic hadn't been that impactful over the game's first 25 minutes, but he was instrumental in Chelsea's 36th-minute tally. N'Golo Kante found the American in a central position, allowing Pulisic to run at the Liverpool defense. With defenders closing in, he slid a deft pass while falling to the ground to put Olivier Giroud in on goal, and the Frenchman converted with a cool finish.
Just minutes later Pulisic thought he had his first competitive goal for the Blues, twisting his way past Joe Gomez and Joel Matip to find the net, only for it be ruled out by a narrow offside decision.
Lowlights: Pulisic did start the match slow, but that is nitpicking to a degree. Liverpool is among the most formidable of opponents, and Chelsea didn't have much of the ball early. He was among those culpable for allowing Sadio Mane a free header from a corner in the 30th minute, but ultimately wasn't punished.
Stats: Played 36 minutes as a substitute, zero goals: zero assists, 100% pass completion percentage (12-12), one chance created, no shots, no shots on goal, one chance created. 23 touches, three successful take-ons.
How he performed (out of 10): 5. All told, Pulisic was by no means overwhelmed as he entered from the substitutes' bench, but the fact remains that he wasn't that impactful, and the chance he created came long after the game had been decided. That said, Pulisic walked into a team that fell apart defensively after he entered the match, so Lampard will have far bigger concerns about his side than Pulisic's performance.
Highlight: Normally, making your debut with your new club would rank as a highlight, but a 4-0 away defeat tempers this considerably. Pulisic did have one sequence where he shook loose from Aaron Wan-Bissaka only to be fouled by Paul Pogba after he released the ball. Pulisic's best moment came in second-half stoppage time when he set up Emerson Palmieri for an attempt at goal that forced a sharp save from United goalkeeper David De Gea.
Lowlight: The team performance was one to forget given the scoreline, with Chelsea's defense looking highly suspect. For Pulisic, he started the game on the bench, which counts as a disappointment given the anticipation attached to his debut. Frank Lampard, who was making a league debut of his own as the club's manager after starring for the Blues as a player, preferred Ross Barkley and Pedro in the wide positions that Pulisic would have been expected to occupy.
Lampard told NBC Sports afterwards that, "I just felt coming to Old Trafford, the type of game it was, I knew we needed bodies in midfield because it's a busy area for them ... So Ross coming in off the line, bringing a bit of stability in midfield and around midfield would be good for us."
After entering the match in the 58th minute, Pulisic did have a few chances to run at the defense but wasn't able to threaten the United goal off the dribble. He also had a chance to pick out fellow substitute Olivier Giroud with a cross in second-half stoppage time, but couldn't connect.