Thomas Tuchel has explained why Saul Niguez was substituted at half-time in Chelsea’s 2-1 victory over Watford, with the Spain international being hooked at the interval for the second time in as many Premier League starts.
The 27-year-old midfielder was acquired by the Blues on an initial season-long loan over the summer, with that agreement including an option to push through a permanent deal with Atletico Madrid.
There appears to be little chance of that clause being triggered, with Saul lasting just 45 minutes against the Hornets having already endured a similar fate on his debut against Aston Villa in September.
What has been said?
Quizzed on why Saul was replaced by Thiago Silva during the interval at Vicarage Road, Tuchel told reporters: “He was on a yellow card.
“We had two options, [the other was to] take Marcos [Alonso] off and put Saul as a wing-back. I had this in my mind before the game if something happened to Marcos, but it wasn’t the right match to try new positions.
“It was him [who went off] to change the shape a little bit and have Thiago on the pitch with the quality of organising, and Trevoh [Chalobah] in the six who is more physical. Unfortunately Trevoh injured himself so we ended up with Ruben [Loftus-Cheek] in the single six.
“It was a tactical decision and we go on from here.”
The bigger picture
Saul has taken in just three Premier League appearances for Chelsea, with his other outing seeing him get two minutes off the bench in a 3-0 victory at Newcastle.
He has completed a full outing for the Blues just once, in a Carabao Cup clash with Southampton, and has seen it suggested that a loan deal could be ripped up in January.
Tuchel is adamant that will not happen and has refuted any suggestion that Saul was not a player he asked for during the last transfer window.
He has said of a proven performer that took in 340 appearances for Atletico before taking on a new challenge in England: “A club signing? No, we don’t do this. Until now we didn’t do club signings and coach’s signings. We do signings because we decide together because we believe it’s a good pick and a good addition to the squad, and this was exactly the case.
“I think every single player needs his time to adapt and Saul needed his time. He competes with a lot of high-quality players in midfield.
“We need to understand him a bit better, not in terms of language, but in terms what is his real strength, the detail of the player, what can he add to the squad, where is maybe his unique quality and it was not easy.
“I guess it’s the first time he plays for another club than Atletico. He comes from the academy there and we have to accept the style of the game is so different from Spain to here.
“It teaches us a lesson that everybody needs individual time to adapt. I feel him a bit more relaxed and at the same time that gives him a little bit more freedom to impose his quality. He’s very strong in finishing, in arriving in the box.
“At the moment, where we have injured players in the midfield, it’s the moment for him to be ready and I have the feeling that he is ready and can show what he wants to show.”
Premier League leaders Chelsea, who hold a narrow one-point advantage over the chasing pack, will be back in action on Saturday when taking in a derby date with London rivals West Ham.