The winger started life slowly in west London but has gone onto become an important player, which has led to debate between the two managers
Frank Lampard has responded to Red Bull Salzburg manager Jesse Marsch, who said that the Chelsea coach was slow to trust in Christian Pulisic’s talent after he joined the club in a £58 million (€64m/$75m) deal from Borussia Dortmund.
Pulisic scored twice against Salzburg in a 2019-20 pre-season match under the newly appointed Lampard but initially had a slow start in west London.
Eventually, Pulisic became a first-team regular and he went onto play his best football at Chelsea after the coronavirus-enforced lockdown ended and football restarted.
After an injury in the FA Cup final against Arsenal, Pulisic returned in the 4-0 win over Krasnodar in midweek and Lampard responded to Marsch’s recent interview.
“I did read the comments and I was surprised that Jesse had managed to read my mind as well as he thought he did,” Lampard told reporters ahead of a trip to Burnley this weekend.
“He’s recounted the conversation wrong, I have to put it correctly because it was the game against Salzburg were played and Christian scored two goals in pre-season. Fair enough, Jesse came up to me and said what a talented player Christian was which I knew and I agreed with.
“I spoke about the fact it was so exciting to see how he could develop for us with the talent he has. That was the conversation. Jesse managed to put it across slightly differently.
“Maybe Jesse knows the feeling of American managers and coaches that travel into Europe, but one thing I did have was I played in America for 18 months and I would never underestimate the desire that American soccer players – football players – have to learn, to improve, take on information and understand the technical side of the game.
“So when you have that, which Christian had, and you have incredible talent, it was never in doubt for me. My only thing is I coach in the Premier League and have played here for nearly 20 years so I understand the rigours of it.
“That brings me on to Christian’s development last year. It is clearly the toughest league in the world to come and play at a young age from a different league. It is not just Christian who will have felt that in the early stages.
“Some of the greatest players in Premier League history, whether they came from America or Europe or anywhere in the world, have felt that. What Christian did was find his feet very quickly and have a great first season in the Premier League where he produced goals and assists.
“I thought his performance last season was massively impressive. He will get better and better because he is a young player but I never doubted him in the first place, and that’s not me jumping on Jesse because there’s probably a bigger issue there with American players.
“I don’t want to comment on that – he can field that one himself – but as a manager I never doubted Christian and it is important for me to put that straight actually, more for Christian than anything.”
The USMNT captain’s best performance last season arguably came at Burnley’s Turf Moor ground. He scored three goals at with each foot and a header to crown a perfect hat-trick.
Lampard started with Pulisic on the bench in Russia and is aware of his impact against Sean Dyche’s side last season.
“Christian played a lot of good games for us last season, he’s an important player for us, came on and we saw his qualities,” he said. “It was important he had some rest last night because he’d played three games for us in a week after coming back from injury. So I have to keep a balance, and also keep consistency and stability in the starting XI.”
Meanwhile, the Blues have almost a completely injury-free squad with just long-term absentee Billy Gilmour joined by Kepa Arrizabalaga on the list.
Lampard admits his squad are tired ahead of the weekend match, having travelled four-and-a-half hours back and forth from Russia for the Champions League clash with Krasnodar, while Thiago Silva was cut from the trip just to rest for the weekend.
“Thiago’s fit, taking him out of the trip to Russia was more of a maintenance issue for him,” he continued. “Kepa has got some progression in his shoulder injury, so we’re hopeful but we’ll see with that one.
“In terms of the rest of the squad we don’t have any clear injuries, but it’s a tired group, we arrived back quite late in the early hours of this morning. So I’ll have to assess everybody, as much tomorrow as today, and see how everyone settles down over the next 24 hours and we’ll see where we’re at.”