Like many players up and down the country, Christian Pulisic’s season has been disrupted by injury, with calf and hamstring issues limiting his playing time so far in 2020/21. However, now he has a couple of bright performances behind him, the American believes he is getting back to his best, and wherever he is selected today he hopes to make a major contribution.
It was against Arsenal in August that Pulisic put us ahead in the FA Cup final before pulling up as he bore down on goal in the second half. A short pre-season meant that problem ran into the start of the current campaign, and after accumulating some vital minutes in October, a hamstring injury sustained on the final day of the month in the warm-up at Burnley further impeded his progress.
Back Pulisic came, but again a feeling in his hamstring kept him out of a couple of games earlier in December. He returned at Wolves and looked lively, and although things didn’t quite come off for him when West Ham visited the Bridge on Monday, there were plenty of glimpses of the elite ability he showcased after Project Restart.
‘It’s not been easy,’ Pulisic said.
‘I had a very tough couple of months coming back and forth from injuries, but I’m doing absolutely everything that I can to be on the pitch because that’s where I want to be playing. Right now I’m feeling great so I’m blessed and happy about that. I’m just hoping it continues.
‘In the last couple of games, I’m starting to feel like myself again and my confidence is getting higher so I’m feeling good.
‘My aims for the season are just to stay fit, be able to perform throughout the game and be available for my team in every single possible game that I can. If that can happen I think I can help my team and we can have a really good season.’
In each of the past two fixtures Pulisic has been deployed on the right side of a front three for the most part, with Timo Werner operating on the other flank where Pulisic wrought such havoc last term.
‘I’ve played on both wings a lot,’ he noted. ‘I can be very effective on the left wing but there are also a lot of good things I can do on the right.
‘I’m learning to play both and I’m comfortable with both and anywhere in the attacking half. When I get the ball I like to think that I can still be dangerous.’
Such was Pulisic’s first-half showing at Molineux 10 days ago, watching pundit Paul Scholes said he ‘looked the closest thing to Eden Hazard’, primarily because ‘he’s got a little turn of pace, his centre of gravity is low, he can weave past people and he’s creative.’
The 22-year-old does not take such acclaim for granted.
‘It’s a huge compliment. As I’ve said before, Hazard was a huge player for this club and I’ll never try and compare myself to him, but coming from a guy like Paul Scholes it’s a big compliment.
‘There’s no one obvious player I model my game on. I like to take a lot of things from different players. I’ve learnt a lot from Hazard’s game, from watching him and watching his highlights, and there’s a lot of players like that. I’m trying to learn every day.’
Today we meet Arsenal for the first time since the Cup final, when Pulisic was our brightest star during his time on the pitch.
Unfortunately, following his withdrawal, the Gunners got the better of us at Wembley, and that afternoon will give us extra motivation according to the American.
‘We want revenge from that match of course. It’s always a good feeling to beat them but we want to get back at them after that one.
‘I don’t know if I would say it’s a good time to play them. We are not going to look at them any less because of their recent form. It’s never an easy game against Arsenal, and they are still a good team.
‘It’s a big day. They are going to want to come out and beat us so we have to be ready for the challenge. Chelsea against Arsenal is always a big match so we are ready. We are coming off a win and we are going to be confident going into the game.’