In an exclusive interview with the Chelsea website, Christian Pulisic tells us about working with Thomas Tuchel earlier in his career, the good feeling in the dressing room right now and why Tottenham on Thursday presents such a big opportunity…
On a wet and cold winter’s afternoon in western Germany, under the glare of 80,000 pairs of eyes, Christian Pulisic took his first steps in senior football.
The date was 30 January 2016 and Borussia Dortmund were being held by mid-table Ingolstadt. With a quarter of the game remaining, and Dortmund attacking the famous Yellow Wall at their gargantuan Westfalenstadion, manager Thomas Tuchel turned to a promising 17-year-old who had starred in the club’s junior teams since arriving from America 12 months earlier.
Off the bench rose Pulisic. Immediately standing out with his turn of pace and close control, the winger helped Dortmund grab a couple of late goals. A star was born.
Fast forward almost exactly five years and Pulisic, now a Chelsea player, finds himself under the tutelage of Tuchel again.
‘I remember making my debut under him and it was a really exciting time,’ he tells us.
‘I was playing in the youth team at Dortmund and then I got the call to say I was going to go up and train with the first team, and be a full first team member. It was really exciting.
‘I had to fight my way into that team because it was a very strong team, and being a young player I had to work extra hard.
‘The manager trusted in me and most importantly gave me chances to play, so I am grateful for that. He definitely helped me as a young player and I only have good memories of that time. We had some success at Dortmund together, and it’s been good to see him again and work with him once more.’
Just as in his professional debut half-a-decade ago, Pulisic has come off the bench to good effect in each of Tuchel’s two games in charge of Chelsea so far. After adding extra energy and invention against Wolves with no tangible result, the 22-year-old teed up Marcos Alonso’s volley on Sunday having himself gone close to clinching the three points earlier in the second half.
Deployed in a position he describes as ‘a kind of false striker’, Pulisic confirms it’s a role he really likes, mainly because it is gets him in attacking areas where he thinks he can make a difference. He is now targeting an injury-free conclusion to the campaign so he has the best chance of reaching the same consistently high performance levels as last summer.
And what of working with Tuchel again?
‘It’s been good so far,’ Pulisic reports. ‘We’ve got a new outlook on things, we have had a really good win so it’s been a positive start.
‘It’s been some crazy times recently and just to get a win left all the guys in the changing room really excited. We have had a lot of fun in training and there are smiles on faces which is good to see.’
The task awaiting Pulisic and his team-mates this midweek is a trip to Tottenham, and with it the opportunity to beat one of the so-called 'big six' for the first time this season while closing the gap on some of those above us in the table.
‘It’s a good time to play them coming off a good result for us,’ he assesses.
‘We’re feeling confident. We’re really excited. It’s a good chance to make a statement and most importantly really build some momentum.
‘We know what a good result against a good team could do for us.’