A worrying injury on five different occasions resulted in Christian Pulisic playing only 1,727 minutes of Chelsea’s 4,950 season total match minutes (i.e 35 per cent). That is a very low figure given the importance of his quality to the club. While fans try to blame his injury conundrum on excuses like the medical team, Frank Lampard’s system, and being overplayed, I say there isn’t one.
The accusation against the medical team is wrong. Truly, Chelsea’s injury rate increased this season but a lot of things also changed. There were several several physically-slight players coming in to play in a high-physicality, demanding system. And for the long-standing members of the team, they were also integrated into the most physical system they’ve arguably ever played in their Chelsea career.
Lampard’s training sessions also contributed to the high injury rate this season. I don’t work for Chelsea FC and know what goes on during training sessions but the critiques I read from Chelsea social media platforms suggests training could be managed better. I’ve seen some videos of intense training sessions at mid-season to keep every player fit, according to Lampard.
Given the match requirements, it is an achievement that Chelsea didn’t break the injury record. However, all these excuses don’t apply to Pulisic, given the nature of the player.
Blaming the medical team for Pulisic’s injury is simply inappropriate. It’s even more amiss when you analyse his injury record. Since his breakthrough season at Dortmund, he has sustained injury 18 times, with 204 days total days out of action (excluding the latest in FA Cup final). It is apparent that sacking certain personnel in the medical team isn’t the solution, as it was never the problem.
Additionally, I hear people say injury is a part of football, and that the number of injuries Pulisic has had are normal for footballers. No, they are not. Research from Linkoping University on the 50 best European teams states that, on average, players sustained two injuries per season, resulting in 50 injuries per season for a team of 25.
In the 2017/18 season with Dortmund, Pulisic suffered an injury seven times. In the 2018/19 season, he was injured five times. In the 2019/20 season with Chelsea, he sustained injury five times, including the recent hamstring issue in the FA Cup final. These injury numbers aren’t normal for a footballer.
How can this affect both Chelsea and him? Well, it just means when you include Pulisic in your season squad, make sure you get three other wingers ready to see the season out. You can’t build success with such a player. If Chelsea heads forward like this without a change, we’ll keep seeing a vibrant player, who is ready to run the league at August, but could already be out injured by December.
That scenario might repeat itself for seasons, and fans will keep swimming in the familiar stream of optimism for him to remain free of injury every year.
The point is you need reliable players to build success. One of the major tools of great players is their ability to be on the pitch every week. To play a full season is a superior talent than mere skills. Is Pulisic our best player? Of course, but is he our most reliable player? Surely, no.
When you analyze Chelsea’s season achievements, you’ll question how instrumental he was. We reached the FA Cup final and I asked what did he contribute throughout the stages? I can bet we would have made top four comfortably if only he was around at mid-season.
The team lacked his presence in most of our season-defining games due to either questionable fitness or an actual injury. To be fair, the real talented player is someone who can stay fit through the whole season. That’s why I will vote Cesar Azpilicueta, Mason Mount, and Willian as POTY over Pulisic.
Don’t get me wrong, it’s not a critique aimed at a player struggling with injury. But rather a realistic evaluation of the player we have on our hands, what his problem is, and what he needs to change moving forward. Pulisic overcoming his recurring injuries will benefit Chelsea and it will cement his name as one of the best players on the world stage
You can check out the previous article I wrote about Christian Pulisic being our best player HERE.