'It's been a tough ride' - USMNT ace Pulisic perfectly poised to kickstart Chelsea career at Wembley

Christian Pulisic Chelsea Lille Champions League 2021-22 Getty/GOAL

Christian Pulisic's finest run as a Chelsea player ended with a severely damaged hamstring at Wembley Stadium, with Arsenal running out 2-1 winners in the 2020 FA Cup final. 

The United States international had opened the scoring in that behind-closed-doors contest, making it five goals and four assists in the 11 games which immediately followed 'Project Restart', when football resumed after its pandemic-enforced suspension of play. 

The injury he sustained interrupted the momentum Pulisic had built up but there are increasing signs that the American is one again building up a head of steam.

Indeed, the 23-year-old is in line to start Saturday's Carabao Cup final clash with Liverpool having recently returned to prominence under Thomas Tuchel.

Pulisic spent the entirety of Chelsea's Club World Cup semi-final against Al Hilal sitting on the bench but he was brought on just half an hour into the tournament decider due to an injury to Mason Mount and played a further 90 minutes as the Blues beat Palmeiras 2-1 after extra time.

Following a positive display in Abu Dhabi, Pulisic started the next two games, scoring the second goal in a 2-0 win over Lille in the first leg of their Champions League last-16 tie at Stamford Bridge. 

This run of games couldn't have come at a better time for Pulisic.

After a difficult spell playing centre forward because of a Covid-19 outbreak in the Chelsea squad, the winger found himself benched for much of the winter. 

He did start big games against Liverpool and Man City, but he still looked a long way from establishing himself in a competitive front line, having just scored twice in all competitions before January. 

Christian Pulisic Chelsea Arsenal 2020 FA Cup final GFX
Getty/GOAL

Indeed, Pulisic hinted at a sense of frustration after linking up with the U.S. men's national team for the most recent round of World Cup qualifiers. 

"It's a lot sometimes," Pulisic told reporters. "When I come to the national team, it's: 'How are things with Chelsea? What's this? What's that?'

"It's tough. It's definitely played a lot on my mind. Mentally it's been difficult at times.

"But I'm always very excited to come back with the national team and step away and get to enjoy playing with these guys and get to just enjoying football in general."

He was back in the doldrums again, though, after being left out against Al Hilal, admitting in an interview with ESPN: "I was very ready to play. I wanted to play. So, of course, I was upset that I didn't.

"There have been a lot of ups and downs. I have been on and off playing, different positions, kind of being moved around.

"It has been a tough ride for me personally, to be honest, and I am just trying to get back into some rhythm, get into the run of things."

When pressed on his relationship with Tuchel, he effectively admitted they didn't always see eye to eye.

"You are not always going to get along the best or whatever, but I think we have had a good enough relationship where we've been able to accomplish things together and I've been able to play at times," he explained.
"Now, I'm hoping to get back on that streak."

Christian Pulisic Chelsea Lille Champions League 2021-22 GFX
Getty/GOAL

His downbeat tone was certainly understandable, given he had played fewer minutes than any of the Blues' other forwards at that point.

Even after starting against Lille, while he moved ahead of Timo Werner in terms of game time, he remains behind the likes of Romelu Lukaku, Kai Havertz and Hakim Ziyech.

It also obviously grates that he's not always been allowed to play in his preferred position.

During that hot streak after 'Project Restart', Pulisic was being deployed on the left wing. This season, though, he's been moved all over the pitch to accommodate others.

However, after injuries to Mason Mount, Callum Hudson-Odoi and Hakim Ziyech of late, the door has opened again for Pulisic. 

"After his performance in the Club World Cup final, Christian deserves to stay in the team," Tuchel told Chelsea's Fifth Stand app. "So, let's see if we decide it should be like this."

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Pulisic certainly isn't the only forward to have struggled under Tuchel this season, Werner, Romelu Lukaku and Kai Havertz all having low goal tallies. 

The American still has a long way to go to match the impact of the forwards at both Liverpool and Manchester City, and show himself capable of sustaining a Chelsea title challenge.

However, he is full fit, on form, back in the starting line-up and now has a perfect chance to use Wembley to regain the momentum he lost at the same venue two years ago.