Returning from international duty early didn’t help Christian Pulisic keep his place in Chelsea manager Frank Lampard’s lineup for Saturday’s 5-2 rout of Wolverhampton Wanderers.
The 20-year-old U.S. national team star skipped Tuesday’s 1-1 draw with Uruguay to prepare for the trip but still didn’t see the field for the first time since his $73 million transfer from German titan Borussia Dortmund.
Pulisic had started Chelsea’s last four games across all competitions, and he hadn’t been on the Blues bench since last month’s Premier League season opener against Manchester United. But Lampard preferred veteran Brazilian winger Willian over Pulisic for the visit to Wolves, with young Englishman Mason Mount manning the opposite flank.
The switch helped Chelsea earn just its second win this season. Homegrown striker Tammy Abraham became just the third player 21 years old or younger with at least a brace in three straight Prem matches, and Canadian-born defender Fikayo Tomori had this all-world strike:
In his first start of the season coming off an injury, Willian was both a stabilizing force and an experienced threat going forward in Lampard’s young lineup.
Meantime, Mount was involved from start to finish, scoring Chelsea’s final goal in stoppage time and helping set up Abraham’s first with a penetrating run into the hosts’ box:
With Chelsea kicking off its UEFA Champions League campaign on Tuesday at Stamford Bridge against a formidable opponent in Spanish side Valencia, it’s possible that Lampard was merely rotating his squad to ensure that Pulisic is fresh for the high-profile midweek match.
But even if that was the original plan, it will be harder for the club legend to mess with a winning formula. Mount has two goals in his last three starts while Willian’s cool head came in handy after Wolves pulled two goals back in the second half, avoiding a repeat of the squandered lead vs. Sheffield United two weeks ago.
Given how well his team played on Saturday, Lampard might well be tempted to stick with the group that turned in Chelsea’s best performance of the season. With Chelsea also involved in multiple domestic cup competitions, Pulisic still figures to get tons of minutes.
But the win over Wolves could still be bad news for the American — who is still looking for his first goal for the Blues — in the short term.
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