The 22-year-old was expected to start against Real Madrid in the Champions League semi final on Wednesday after his impressive first leg performance and goal.
However, he cut a disgruntled figure as Tuchel instead opted to begin with Kai Havertz and Pulisic was given the last 25 minutes from the bench.
Chelsea star Christian Pulisic was ‘very frustrated’ with Thomas Tuchel’s decision
Pulisic still managed to make an impact as, after Chelsea missed a number of chances, he played a decisive role in setting up Mason Mount for his side’s crucial second in the 2-0 win.
Tuchel acknowledged afterwards that his selection had not gone down well with Pulisic but applauded the USA international for his performance.
‘Christian got a bad message for him today,’ Tuchel said. ‘It was a very tough decision but I’m very happy that Christian turned his anger around into positive energy for the team, helped the team and assisted the decisive goal. So big credit to him.’
Though Tuchel explained he had chosen Havertz for his extra height at set pieces, former Chelsea midfielder and TV pundit Joe Cole said Pulisic would be justifiably ‘raging’ with the coach’s decision and the £58million signing from Borussia Dortmund hinted as much afterwards.
Pulisic came off the bench to set up Mason Mount for the second goal against Real Madrid
‘Very frustrated. Yeah not much else to say,’ said Pulisic. ‘I wanted to play from the beginning as I always do.
‘I’ve had to continue to prove myself over and over again. But as always I just reach out to God and He gives me strength. With that behind me nothing can stop me really.’
It is clear though that the relationship between Tuchel and Pulisic has become strained. Indeed, Wednesday’s twist follows on the heels of Pulisic visibly snubbing Tuchel during his goal celebrations with the bench in the first leg in Madrid.
While Tuchel continues to collect impressive results since his arrival, it is clear there will be some tough decisions ahead as he re-shapes the squad to his taste in the summer.
The 22-year-old grabbed a vital away goal in the first leg of the Champions League semi-final
Pulisic is obviously reluctant to continue as an impact sub and wants to be at a club where the coach has faith in him from the start.
Chelsea beat competition from rival Premier League sides plus ones abroad to sign Pulisic in 2019 and it would be no surprise to learn some of those clubs are monitoring his situation now. Impressed by his performances over the semi final, Real Madrid will be among those discussing Pulisic when they attempt their summer rebuild.
For his part, Tuchel wants to add another centre forward with Inter Milan’s Romelu Lukaku discussed while Raphael Varane of Real Madrid is among those favoured for central defence. However to fund such expensive signings, several fringe players will have to be sold in what could prove a difficult market.
Tammy Abraham, Olivier Giroud and Hakim Ziyech are among those already considering moves away and Pulisic could yet be among them.