Ashley Cole reckons much-maligned Chelsea loanee Saul Niguez will have earned himself more first-team chances in the wake of his display against Tottenham – but still very much doubts if the midfielder will have secure a permanent stay.
The Spain midfielder signed for the Blues on a season’s loan deal from Atletico Madrid. His arrival, which beat the deadline with seconds to spare, was expected to raise Chelsea’s midfield on to another level. However, Saul has evidently struggled to get to grips with the English game.
Indeed, during his only two Premier League starts, Saul has been hauled off at half-time, having struggled to make an impact. And with game time limited, reports are indicating his time at Stamford Bridge could be cut short.
The midfielder though finally came to the party on Wednesday night with his best performance yet in a Chelsea shirt. He turned in an accomplished display in the centre of midfield as the Blues defeated Tottenham 2-0 in the Carabao Cup semi-final first leg.
And Saul earned himself one of the biggest cheers of the night when a crunching tackle of Heung-min Son won the ball back for Chelsea.
Saul was ultimately replaced in the 73rd minute for Ruben Loftus-Cheek.
However, with N’Golo Kante having Covid and with Mateo Kovacic rested, Saul took his chance to impress, earning a large pat on the back frm Thomas Tuchel.
Cole now thinks talk of Chelsea sending Saul away will have ended on the back of that display. And while he thinks he will earn more chances, he doubts whether he can earn himself a long-term stay.
Cole impressed by Saul Niguez
“I thought he played well,” Cole told Sky Sports, via Metro, when assessing Saul’s performance. “I think he had good balance with Jorginho in there, he had a little bit more license for freedom.
“Yes, he played in a two but he could go out into those wide areas a little more with Jorginho just sat a little bit.
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“In terms of his overall performance and the worries and concerns people had around him, he’s done enough tonight to warrant that he should get more opportunities.
“But ultimately, the two or three players in front of him are playing so well so it will be very tough to get into this team.”
Tuchel happy to call on midfielder
Tuchel, meanwhile, reflected on a “huge step up” for Saul Niguez following his performance at the Bridge.
Asked if Saul is now finally settling in to life at Chelsea, Tuchel replied: “Yeah he is. He is more happy, he is more free in training, I see it every day.
“He played better when he came on against Wolves, he already had a good impact. So he’s stepping up and stepping up.
“I was so happy when I saw him on the sideline when we scored the equaliser against Liverpool. He was totally committed, it was very, very impressive to see him like this.
“So this is an important moment for him. But I have a feeling like he digested the experiences in the beginning. Maybe did not expect it like this – he’s not the first player to struggle from the switch.
“And what he does is good because he’s open, he’s fully focused and totally committed to the team. I’m very happy he had a performance like today where it was a huge step up.”