Interview

Pulisic ‘thrilled to be back’ and enjoying his new role

Christian Pulisic is delighted with how his return from injury is going and pleased to be able to help the team in new ways after featuring at the centre of our attack.

The American has been forced to watch much of the season so far from the sidelines due to the injury he suffered after scoring in our first Premier League fixture of the season, a 3-0 win over Crystal Palace in mid-August.

It proved to be a tricky problem to get over, with a couple of setbacks further delaying his return to action and frustrating his efforts to contribute to our impressive form so far this season.

He returned as a substitute at the beginning of this month, but it is since the last international break that he has seemed to have rediscovered his sharpness, scoring from the bench in Saturday’s 3-0 win at Leicester City before being named in the starting line-up for the excellent 4-0 victory at home against Juventus on Tuesday evening.

‘I’m feeling really good,’ confirmed Pulisic. ‘My body’s feeling much better and I’m getting even better with more time on the pitch and starting to gain fitness.

‘It was quite a tough injury to deal with, to be honest. There were times when I thought that I could come back but I was just still dealing with too much pain. Now I’m in a much better place and I’m very happy with the way it feels and we go from now.

‘It definitely felt like a long couple of months. Obviously it’s tough to not be able to play, do what I love and be able to help my team. So I’m thrilled to be back, it’s great to be back within the team.’

However, our number 10 did admit there is still more work to be done before he is back at full fitness, although he feels the gradual way he has been eased back into the action has been important for his successful return.

‘I would say, fitness wise, I’m close to where I want to be. I can still improve, but that comes with the minutes. I think I’ve played it quite smart in the way that I’ve come back, slowly, not necessarily too much too soon. It’s been really good so I’m happy with the way I feel right now.’

Of course, Pulisic isn’t the only attacking option Thomas Tuchel has had to do without recently. Kai Havertz missed the win over Juventus, while Timo Werner made his own return from injury in that game and Romelu Lukaku was an unused substitute, his first involvement for over a month.

That has seen Christian leading the line as the central player in our front three in the victories against Leicester and Juve, rather than his more familiar supporting role. While he admits it requires something slightly different from what he is used to, he also insists it is a pleasure to play anywhere in our attack at the moment.

‘I enjoy any attacking role really within this team,’ he added. ‘On Tuesday that’s where I had to be and I think it’s an important role, where you can also create a lot of space for others. Maybe I wasn’t on the ball as much, but I’m happy with the all-round performance.

‘I think I can play in a lot of the attacking positions within this team. With this slightly different role, I’m maybe not on the ball as much as I usually am or able to use some of my strengths, but I think it’s a position that I can play. You can create a lot of space for your team-mates and I’m happy to play there.’

One of the players benefitting from that space is Reece James, who scored his fifth goal of the season against Juventus, and such has been his form recently that Pulisic sees no end to what he can achieve after making the right wing-back spot his own over the last month.

‘We’re all impressed and what he can do on the field is pretty special. He’s got so much ability and so many different ways to help the team, the sky’s definitely the limit for him.

‘I think that’s what’s great about our system, it allows him to attack a lot, and he was really strong on Tuesday and you could see how much he helped us in the attack.

‘Honestly, the way he’s playing now and the way he strikes the ball, I wouldn’t be surprised if he scored double figures this season.’

Pulisic and James will be hoping to continue to impress this Sunday, when we next take to the pitch at Stamford Bridge against Manchester United in the Premier League. The Red Devils have had a difficult week, with the departure of manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer meaning caretaker boss Michael Carrick could be in the dugout again, but Pulisic is in no doubt about the threat they can carry whatever the situation.

‘I think it will be a tough game regardless. Obviously they’ve been in a tough situation but regardless of who their coach is we know what ability they have and what a strong team they are. So it’s going to be a tough match no matter what and we’re looking forward to it.’

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