Chelsea’s £30m transfer mistake laid bare as Thomas Tuchel lays down the law

Malmo 0-1 Chelsea: Thomas Tuchel reaction

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Thomas Tuchel’s deadline day signing of Saul Niguez on loan from Atletico Madrid becomes more and more peculiar as the months roll on. Saul has made just two Premier League appearances so far and has not started a single game in either the league or the Champions League following his arrival.

The 26-year-old was unsurprisingly left on the bench for Tuesday’s trip to face Swedish champions Malmo and was an unused substitute in the fixture.

Saul left Atletico after growing frustrated with being played in less natural positions – most notably out wide – but the move to Chelsea hasn’t worked out in the slightest.

After a nightmare debut which saw him embarrassingly taken off at half-time in the 1-1 draw with Aston Villa in Aston Villa, Saul has featured for just two league minutes since then.

Saul started in the recent EFL Cup penalty win over Southampton last month, as well as against Villa in the previous round.

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The midfielder does fit in Tuchel’s 3-5-2 system, but the performances of the likes of Jorginho, Mateo Kovacic, N’Golo Kante and most recently Ruben Loftus-Cheek have kept him out of the team.

Loftus-Cheek started alongside Jorginho in the Tuesday’s Champions League win over Malmo, which suggests Saul is now fifth choice centre midfielder.

The 25-year-old played 90 minutes against Malmo and has now made eight appearances in all competitions this season, and has provided two assists.

Speaking after Tuesday’s win, Tuchel said Loftus-Cheek wants to dominate games and has bags of potential, which he proved against Malmo. 

“He wants to dominate opponents, he wants not to just be a part of the game because I think he is too talented to just be a part of the group,” said Tuchel. “He needs to use his full potential – that is the absolute key for him – and if he does like in this moment he can be a big part of the squad.

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“He wants to dominate opponents, he wants not to just be a part of the game because I think he is too talented to just be a part of the group. He needs to use his full potential – that is the absolute key for him – and if he does like in this moment he can be a big part of the squad.

“That is why I am very happy and after the first 15 minutes he was involved in a lot of dangerous moments for us. I am happy he pushes himself through these little downs and comes up with another strong performance. 

“I am very happy with him and the next step is to show consistency and push himself because the limit can constantly be pushed because he has so much potential.”

However, Tuchel insisted Saul’s chance will come and the midfielder must continue to work hard to prove himself. 

“He does not need to worry, said Tuchel after Chelsea beat Southampton in the EFL Cup. “[He just needs to] work hard and adapt and the chances will come.

“We have only 11 [players] to give a chance. I would like to see it in a positive way.

“If you turn it around, of course you have eight players who we didn’t trust today from the beginning. This is a reality. I cannot hide from this reality.

“I will always do my choices in the best belief for the team and best belief in this moment and for these type of games. There will always be tactical choices and choices of current form and of connections on the field.

“Particularly about Saul, he was very, very close to start today. In the end, I decided against him because I thought to put him in another high pressing match, an opponent pressing so high in the centre of the pitch, would it be fair to say ‘okay, now prove it and let’s see if your adaption has gone further’ and I hesitated a little bit.

“I have to take the selection and take the responsibility for the selection, and eight players today did not like it. It is also life at Chelsea and we have to keep on going and keep everyone positive.

“The guys have to work for their form because form is most important – form and confidence and a positive attitude. He has everything.”

Next up for Chelsea is Burnley on Saturday at Stamford Bridge, and Saul will at least be hoping he can play some part.

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