The German boss explained why he opted to play the American in defence when he came on as a substitute
Thomas Tuchel said it took “big balls” to play Christian Pulisic as a wing-back in Chelseas win over Newcastle.
The Blues took down Newcastle 1-0 on Sunday, with Kai Havertzs late winner proving just enough to seal a crucial win.
Tuchel opted to introduce Pulisic for Malang Sarr in the 78th minute, sticking the American star in defence, and he admitted that it took some “big balls” to make that call.
Tuchel was reminded of the fact that he called on his players to have “big balls” before explaining his decision to play Pulisic in defence.
“Did I say that?! Okay. The manager had to have some balls to make these decisions,” he began. “As you are aware, today we started with a 4-1-4-1. [Cesar Azpilicueta] was out, Reece James was out and Callum [Hudson-Odoi] played there [at wing-back] and was out.
“Pulisic came from some days off feeling sick so we struggled to find a right wing-back. Marcos [Alonso] struggled through his corona times and we were not sure if he could make it so we started in a 4-1-4-1. In the second half, it was a back five.
“Malang is good in defending but we took the risk on the left side to be more offensive. We defended against their strikers in more of a three against three. Jorginho was the man in front of the back three to control counterattacks and long balls. Hakim [Ziyech] did it against Tottenham who had a back five and it was a bit of the same situation as against Tottenham in one of the four games we played recently.
“It is not their best position but it is a bit easier for a player like Christian to do it when they come into the match. We took the risk to increase the offensive threat with some runs. In the end, we have a run with Kai and Christian Pulisic to arrive in the box.
“In the end, I am happy because Malang was important for defending set-pieces and it was a bit of a gamble.”
Tuchel went on to explain why he was willing to take that gamble as he was prepared to sacrifice one point to potentially seal three.
“The game was a draw and I thought, Okay, we are risking the point now but if we lose we only lose a point. But we could win two more points so we took it,” he said.
“I am happy because the impact from the bench was very strong with [Mateo Kovacic], Christian was strong and Romelu [Lukaku] gave us more presence.
“We took the risk for three and I am happy we took it.”
The win was a vital one for Chelsea amid a week of uncertainty due to the sanctions handed down to owner Roman Abramovich and, ultimately, the club.
Chelsea remain third in the Premier League, eight points ahead of fourth-place Arsenal, who have two games in hand.
Theyre seven points behind second-place Liverpool, though, while Manchester CIty lead the league with a 10-point gap on the Blues.
Next up for Chelsea is a return to the Champions League, as they look to defend their title heading into a second-leg clash with Lille in the round of 16.
The Blues currently hold a 2-0 advantage heading into that second leg, with Havertz and Pulisic providing the goals in the opening leg.