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Pulisic unable to take chance to impress Tinkerman Tuchel as Chelsea are held by Leeds

16:07 GMT 13/03/2021
Christian Pulisic Thomas Tuchel Chelsea Leeds Premier League 2020-21 GFX
The German manager has enjoyed great success to date by rotating his squad regularly but his changes held the Blues back at Elland Road

Leeds United 0-0 Chelsea: Match statistics

Christian Pulisic has been crying out for a Premier League start for Thomas Tuchel and eventually got one at Elland Road on Saturday. 

The American would have been delighted to have seen his name on the team sheet for the game against Leeds United although he probably wasn't too happy to see himself stationed at right wing-back.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, Pulisic didn't look entirely comfortable in a more defensive position. He struggled, along with most of his team-mates, as an unimpressive Chelsea were held to a 0-0 draw, with Kai Havertz misfiring in the false nine role.

Pulisic does have some experience playing at wing-back. He occasionally played there for Tuchel during their time together at Dortmund, and in the German's first game in charge at Stamford Bridge, against Wolves.

However, this latest outing in relatively unfamiliar territory didn't go well. In theory, Pulisic was deployed in a deeper role than usual but, in practice, he repeatedly found himself running beyond the forward line and into the box.

Consequently, at times at Elland Road, he found himself bearing the brunt of his manager's fury on the sidelines as he failed to get to grips with what was being asked of him. 

Pulisic's struggles arguably played a part in a disjointed overall display from Chelsea, who proved unable to replicate the kind of control they have exerted over other opponents in recent weeks.

Indeed, it came as no surprise to see the Pulisic experiment brought to a premature end after 69 minutes, when Reece James, a player far more suited to the wing-back role, was brought on in the United States international's place. 

This will doubtless be viewed by some as Pulisic missing a rare chance to impress Tuchel. However, he could legitimately argue that learning a new position 'on the job' is never easy and that he will need more game time to both understand and carry out his duties.

Pulisic will, thus, be feeling frustrated right now. And the same goes for Havertz, who missed his side's three biggest chances. 

Despite keeping another clean sheet – that's 10 in 12 games in all competitions since Tuchel took over  – it wasn't all plain sailing at the back either.

Chelsea kept Raphinha quiet, while Patrick Bamford was forced off injured in front of the watching England manager Gareth Southgate, but Marcelo Bielsa's side still asked plenty of questions of the Blues' backline.

Indeed, Edouard Mendy ended up being the visitors' most important player, with the goalkeeper pulling off two world-class saves to keep the game scoreless.

The Senegal international may have been underworked in recent weeks but he earned his side a point with a brilliant first-half save from Tyler Roberts and another great stop after the break from Raphinha.

Ultimately, Chelsea may have simply paid the price for over-rotation. 

Tuchel has made 39 changes to his starting XI for his 10 Premier League outings – more than any other manager since he succeeded Frank Lampard at the helm six weeks ago – but he has generally got his selection spot on.

However, this latest line-up never quite clicked and that may have been because the former Paris Saint-Germain coach had one eye on next week's Champions League last-16 second leg with Atletico Madrid.

“Normally, I don’t like to do this," Tuchel told BT Sport ahead of kick-off. "But in central midfield we will miss Jorginho and Mason Mount on Wednesday [through suspension], so we took the decision to give Mateo Kovacic a rest and not take the risk, because normally this is his game to start also."

So, while his experimentation and use of Chelsea's vast resources has been masterful so far, the attempts to exploit Leeds' man-marking approach simply didn't work.

Tuchel has mastered his vast resources masterfully so far but, against Leeds, the changes proved a hindrance rather than a help. This game, then, served as a reminder that his Chelsea side are not yet capable of winning games through fluid attacking football.

The former Dortmund boss brought on Timo Werner and Callum Hudson-Odoi late on to try to add some potency to the forward line. Each substitution was an attempt to return to the rigid 3-4-3 system that has afforded the Blues greater consistency since sacking Lampard.

But the changes were perhaps an admission that Tuchel had got it wrong. He clearly wasn't happy with his starting line-up and he will have learned valuable lessons about his players.

Pulisic & Co. will certainly have to learn fast if they are to remain a part of the manager's plans.