In his first action for Chelsea since August, Christian Pulisic helped the Blues beat fourth-tier Grimsby Town, 7-1, in the Carabao Cup on Wednesday.
But did the 21-year-old U.S. men’s national team headliner do enough to stay in manager Frank Lampard’s lineup for the club’s upcoming matches in the all-important Premier League and UEFA Champions League?
Hard to say. Deployed on the right wing, Pulisic’s night started out on the quiet side at Stamford Bridge. The American turned it on in the second half, though, as if realizing the urgency of his situation. And while the match ended with Pulisic still searching for his first competitive goal for Chelsea, he did register his first primary assist since last month’s UEFA Super Cup loss to Liverpool, sliding a clever pass for Michy Batshuayi to first-time past Grimsby keeper James McKeown for his second goal of the match and Chelsea’s sixth.
Ross Barkley, Pedro, Kurt Zouma, Reece James and Callum Hudson-Odoi were the home side’s other scorers, although the undisputed strike of the match went to Grimsby’s Matt Green:
WHAT A HIT!— ESPN FC (@ESPNFC) September 25, 2019
Matt Green pulls one back for Grimsby Town! pic.twitter.com/gwrkAMi2ax
Pulisic had other nice moments beyond his late helper. He was involved in the buildup to Barkley’s fourth-minute opener. Late on, he came alive.
He took the ball off Batshuayi’s foot in the 65th minute and powered a shot over James McKeown’s goal. He ran on to a pretty Barkley feed moments later, only to pull the ball wide of McKeown’s far post. The visiting keeper also stopped a Pulisic shot before it was over.
Yet none of that figures to be enough to convince Lampard that Pulisic deserves to reclaim the starting job that the attacker occupied for four consecutive matches (the Super League tilt and three in the Prem) last month. Lampard has indicated that for now anyway, he sees Pedro, fellow veteran Willian and 20-year-old academy product Mason Mount ahead of Pulisic on his depth chart.
It doesn’t help the American that the other midfielders vying for playing time produced arguably better performances Wednesday than Pulisic did, including Barkley, Pedro and 18-year-old speedster Hudson-Odoi, who like Willian recently returned from injury. But then that’s the cold, hard reality of life at a top-end club like Chelsea.
“I’ve got a squad to pick from,” Lampard said after Pulisic didn’t play in Sunday’s 2-1 loss to Liverpool, the third straight game he’d sat out. “I have to make choices.”
Whenever his next chance to play comes, Pulisic will likely have to make that choice even more difficult for his coach.
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