Gareth Southgate has told ESPN he believes Christian Pulisic has faced difficulties adapting to the Premier League but is still wary of the threat he poses when England face the United States at the 2022 World Cup in Qatar on November 25.
Pulisic has endured mixed fortunes at Chelsea since making a £58 million move from Borussia Dortmund in 2019, scoring 26 goals in 131 games.
The 24-year-old won the Champions League in 2021 under then-head coach Thomas Tuchel, but more than half of his appearances for Chelsea have come off the bench amid persistent injury problems.
In an exclusive interview with ESPN, Southgate said, “I obviously watched him [Pulisic] a fair bit at Dortmund as we had Jadon Sancho there at the time and then moving into Chelsea, I think that adaptation from the Bundesliga to the Premier League isn’t straightforward for a start.
“The level of the biggest games is similar if you’re playing Bayern Munich or [Red Bull] Leipzig, but then when you drop down the league, there’s a big difference between the spending power in the bottom half of the Premier League where they can basically take players from some of the biggest clubs in Europe and the bottom half of most of the other leagues in Europe where that depth isn’t there.
“So, I think that takes some adjusting to not only the physical nature of our league but the intensity of every match.
“Of course, he’s had two or three coaches to deal with, so I think there’s been moments where he’s looked like he’s on his way, he’s flowing and he’s got a coach that believes in him and he’s had to deal then with setbacks with injury.
“He would probably feel he hasn’t got quite to where he wants to get to yet, I’d imagine, but he’s a very good player and is a player when you’re looking at the opposition team sheet, he’s someone you’ve got to be aware of and got to be ready for.”
Pulisic told ESPN in February he puts “too much pressure on myself” to “save” the USMNT.
Southgate said he believes the “Captain America” tag Pulisic lives with is a similar level of scrutiny to that which leading several England stars endured in his 57 caps as a player and 76 games as manager of his country.