Christian Pulisic believes Chelsea’s new status as European champions gives the team added self-belief heading into a season in which the American believes the Blues can compete for even more silverware.
The 22-year-old has made 77 appearances for the club since his move from Borussia Dortmund in the summer of 2019, though none were more significant for the young forward than May’s Champions League final triumph against Manchester City.
Pulisic had netted a crucial semi-final away goal in Madrid and then came off the bench for the last 24 minutes to help his team-mates secure the trophy on a glorious Porto night. Two months on, he looks back fondly but believes the experience should also stand Thomas Tuchel’s side in good stead for the challenges that lie ahead.
‘I don’t know if it’s totally sunk in yet,’ he admits. ‘It was such an incredible achievement. It’s starting to hit us and it’s going to give us a lot of confidence.
‘To be the champions of Europe, it wasn’t an easy journey. We’ve seen now that we can compete with those top teams so there’s no reason why we shouldn’t feel that way. We have a strong squad so I would say anything’s possible.’
Pulisic’s Chelsea career has been hindered by injury problems, mostly muscle issues that strike at inopportune moments to disrupt his building momentum. It has been frustrating to watch at times so one can only imagine how difficult it has been to live through.
Yet on an individual level, following a summer break and a strong pre-season, the forward is feeling good and targeting a regular run of games to start the campaign. In a collective sense, he is also aware that squad depth and rotation will be key for the Blues in a season that could see the team play over 60 matches.
‘Staying healthy is definitely a big target of mine, and trying to be available as much as I can to continue to help my team and make a big impact,’ Pulisic explains.
‘But the great thing about our team is that we have so much depth and so many strong players. We have so many games that you’re going to get your time so it’s just about making the most of your chances.’
During those tough moments, the forward believes the most important thing is to have people around to share feelings and concerns with. Having left Pennsylvania for Germany at the age of 16, he is used to taking giant steps into the unknown but living alone, so far away from family and friends during a pandemic, has been particularly challenging.
‘This has been a tough time for a lot of people, myself included,’ he admits. ‘The most important thing is to have a good support system and people around that I can always rely on and have a chat to.
‘I live on my own and it can be tough being alone at times so having someone always there to talk to is extremely important for me. It’s what has carried me through this time.’
Our latest pre-season action takes place this afternoon at the Emirates as Thomas Tuchel’s side head to north London to take on Arsenal in the opening game of the Mind Series. Kick-off is at 3pm and can be watched live on the 5th Stand app and chelseafc.com at a cost of £7.99. This includes a live stream of Arsenal Women vs Chelsea Women, which begins at 12.15pm.
It will be the first of a double-header of fixtures against our capital rivals, with Tottenham visiting Stamford Bridge on Wednesday evening, as all three clubs come together with Mind to raise vital funds and promote mental health awareness.
Pulisic speaks openly about the subject, placing mental health alongside physical health as something that must be managed and treated. Ignoring an anxiety is like ignoring a niggle in your back and if it remains unaddressed then longer-term issues are likely. That’s why the American is keen to talk.
‘Your mental health is so important,’ he adds. ‘It’s about being content with who you are as a person and for me it’s about getting away from the game and finding the right balance.
‘I’m always having to fight with everything that’s going on with football, but also stepping away to make sure my mind is in a good place and I’m really just happy.
‘When it’s all on you, it can really feel like a lot. Even during this time, I reached out to a therapist and that’s not something that anyone should ever be ashamed of. It’s something that can help, just talking about the way that you’re feeling.
‘It’s something that I’ve done personally and I’ve seen other people do as well. Getting it off your chest, speaking about it, is something that can go a long way.’