Chelsea legend insists Saul Niguez signing will work with Thomas Tuchel tactical switch

Tuchel gives verdict on Chelsea's defeat to Man City

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Former Chelsea star Pat Nevin says the signing of Saul Niguez “makes sense” in light of Thomas Tuchel’s switch to a 3-5-2 formation. The tactical switch backfired in the weekend defeat to Manchester City, but Nevin believes it is worth persevering with and predicts it could be used again in Wednesday’s Champions League clash against Juventus.

N’Golo Kante, Jorginho and Mateo Kovacic all started against City on Saturday in a departure from Tuchel’s usual 3-4-2-1 set-up.

But the Premier League champions dominated from the start, pinning back Chelsea’s wing-backs and ensuring Romelu Lukaku and Timo Werner were starved of service.

Some were critical of Tuchel’s tactics after the game, while the Stamford Bridge boss also admitted that a below-par Kante had been ill in the lead-up to the game.

But while the experiment didn’t work against City, Nevin believes it could still be a way forward – and says it could point to why Tuchel signed Saul from Atletico Madrid this summer.

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The former Chelsea winger pointed out that the 3-5-2 set-up had worked in last season’s Champions League semi-final trip to Real Madrid – and also in the recent victory over Tottenham in which Tuchel’s side scored three second-half goals after Kante replaced Mason Mount at the break.

Speaking to Chelsea’s official website, Nevin added: “Another thing that becomes clear now is that the recruitment of Saul also makes more sense when you want to play three in the central midfield area and they have to play at a ruinously high tempo.

“They must get rest games in this style, so another midfielder is good planning.

“I think the slight doubt over the weekend’s tactics was a bit early. This could be the direction we take longer term, and certainly in at least some games going forward.”

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Nevin pointed out that in Chelsea’s win over Zenit St Petersburg two weeks ago, it took the second-half addition of Kai Havertz in place of Hakim Ziyech to open up space for Lukaku, who scored the only goal six minutes later.

“Against Zenit already it took bringing on Kai Havertz up top in the second half to draw some defenders away from the isolated Romelu, providing the breakthrough,” said Nevin.

“Even if it was only a couple of yards of space for a couple of seconds, that is all the big man needed.”

And Nevin reckons playing with two strikers could work against Juventus on Wednesday night as Chelsea look to go top of their Champions League group.

He said City boss Pep Guardiola had taken a risk by putting Ruben Dias and Aymeric Laporte man for man on Lukaku and Werner, whereas most teams would have also wanted a covering player up against the two-man strikeforce. 

“It certainly isn’t time to panic and with Juventus to be faced tomorrow, a decent dose of common sense is called for, as well as considered thinking,” said Nevin.

“All eyes will be on the team sheet and the initial line-up because Juve often play with just the two centre-backs as well.

“Two up top for Chelsea, even away from home in the Allianz Stadium in Turin, might still be a temptation. It would certainly be brave but with enough energy and belief this can work incredibly well away from home.”

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