Frank Lebouef has warned Christian Pulisic he can no longer assume he is a guaranteed starter in Chelsea’s starting XI following his latest injury setback.
The USA international finished last season in spectacular fashion following his initial struggles, but he has failed to fully recover from the hamstring strain he suffered during the FA Cup final against Arsenal.
Pulisic has been restricted to just five appearances so far this term and suffered another setback ahead of the win at Burnley last month when he was forced to withdraw from the starting line-up, having felt a twinge in the warm-up.
The 22-year-old subsequently returned to training but was deemed not fit enough to be selected in the squad for last weekend’s win over Sheffield United. Pulisic was called-up by his country but was released from the USA squad yesterday to continue his rehabilitation at Cobham.
In his absence, summer signing Hakim Ziyech has excelled, while Timo Werner has demonstrated his versatility, impressing on the wing as well as in his customary central role.
Tammy Abraham has also warmed to the challenge of fighting for his place, while the man Lebouef describes as Lampard’s ‘special player’, Mason Mount, remains a regular starter and with so much competition for places, Lebouef fears Pulisic could quickly drop down the pecking order.
He told ESPN: ‘It can be a problem because you have to fight for you position in the first XI. He had a fantastic end of the season and it’s sad to see him not starting the new season.
‘But the season is long and we just talked about injuries coming to other injuries.
We see Ziyech just coming back, he will have the time to play games, he just has to be sure that he is well prepared and he will have games maybe 25 or 30 games for sure.’