Christian Pulisic was entrusted to lead the line in Chelsea’s 4-0 win over Juventus in the Champions League on Tuesday night, and he has discussed his new playing position through the middle.
The American winger has endured another injury-hit season, facing a two-month period on the sidelines with an ankle problem, but he recently returned to full fitness and netted against Leicester at the weekend, before starting in the club’s thrashing of Juve earlier this week.
Despite Romelu Lukaku also returning from injury against Juve, Thomas Tuchel opted against throwing his summer signing straight back into the mix, instead handing Pulisic the responsibility to spearhead his frontline, with the winger-by-trade deployed as a false nine.
He featured for 72 minutes and produced a very promising display as the reigning European champions battered Juventus and ended the Italian club’s perfect record in the Champions League this season, leapfrogging The Old Lady in Group H as a result.
Tuchel’s men now enter the final match of the groups level on points with Juve, but crucially, in first, with their fate now in their own hands as they travel to Zenit in early December. Tuchel will be pleased with such an emphatic result, but also encouraged by Pulisic’s showing.
The American hasn’t always found a consistent home in Tuchel’s system, with the former Borussia Dortmund manager not a fan of traditional wingers, instead relying on his wing-backs to push up the turf, but Pulisic looked comfortable through the middle and has now analysed his new role.
He said: “As far as the false nine role, I think I can play in a lot of the attacking positions within this team.
“I was in a slightly different role. I am not on the ball as much as I usually am or able to use some of my strengths but I think it is a position that I can play.
“I can create a lot of space for my team-mates and I am happy to play there as well.”
Pulisic also went on to discuss his return to full fitness, saying he took a ‘smarter’ road to recovery this time: “It is tough to not be able to play and doing what I love and help my team.
“I am thrilled to be back and it is great to be back within the team. I would say, as far as fitness, I am close to where I want to be but that I can still improve and that comes with minutes.
“I played it quite smart in how I came back with not too much too soon. It has been really good and I am happy with the way I feel right now.”