Thomas Tuchel has explained why Chelsea felt the need to add Saul Niguez to their squad this summer, while also responding to an idea involving their other summer signing.
Chelsea could give Saul a debut on Saturday, when they face Aston Villa in a 5:30pm kick-off. With N’Golo Kante out with injury – he could return on Tuesday, Tuchel confirmed at his pre-match press conference – there could be a chance for the new arrival to showcase himself.
Saul signed for Chelsea on deadline day, joining on loan from Atletico Madrid, where he had previously made more than 300 appearances. It will be a big move for him away from familiar surroundings, and he has a year to prove whether he is worth a permanent transfer or not.
Asked for his thoughts on the signing, Tuchel revealed both he and the club had wanted Saul for a long time.
He said of the deal: “We get to know each other in detail, find out if we’re a good fit.
“Billy Gilmour was our fourth midfielder last season but with the Covid situation, the Euros and Copa America, I was concerned going into the season with only Jorginho, Mateo and N’Golo. Not because of a lack of quality of character – I’m the happiest coach there can be that we have these three guys – but things are unpredictable.
“The Club World Cup is in December and nobody knows how many games. If you have one injured, one suspended, you’re in danger to overload players. So we were looking for an alternative and Saul was on the radar for Chelsea for many years. I was fighting for him at other clubs but it wasn’t impossible.
“So when it was possible to have a loan, we were excited. He was the type of profile we need to give Jorginho and N’Golo the break they need.”
Chelsea’s previous summer signing was Romelu Lukaku, who returned to Stamford Bridge in a club record transfer.
Expectations are high for the Belgian compared to his previous spell with the club and he has already made a decent start.
His arrival has led to questions about the future of 2020 signing Timo Werner, who was once again the subject of transfer speculation this week. But the ex-RB Leipzig man has insisted all along he can play alongside his new teammate.
His manager has now confirmed that could be a possibility at some point.
Tuchel said: “I am sure we will find games and solutions where we play with both of them. We have already played with double strikers and Timo and Romelu can be good together.
“Timo likes to play alongside a reference and Romelu is our reference. The most important thing is he finds his confidence and joy.
“The players are in charge to take their position and fight for their position. This is where we are. We are happy he scored and played. From here on we go.”
Tough preparation for Tuchel
While that may be a long-term task, Chelsea’s squad will have to immediately focus on the game against Villa.
It marks their return from the international break, which has caused doubts over the availability of several South American players – including Thiago Silva.
Tuchel confirmed he would have to make a decision on Saturday morning after talks between the club and the relevant authorities.
In addition, winger Christian Pulisic will also be unavailable for the match due to an ankle injury; Tuchel estimated his recovery time at 10 days.
Those that are available to Tuchel, though, have had little time to prepare – especially those returning from involvement with their countries.
The manager said: “It still feels awkward and it’s demanding. Normally you build up a feeling through the week but we only have six/seven players here and maybe you fill it up a little with academy guys.
“The building was a bit more full yesterday and tomorrow is the first day everyone is back. You lack the feeling and everyone comes from demanding trips and games.
“But once we enter the video room, I demand full focus and full motivation. If you’re tired accept it. Be focused and motivated to play for Chelsea. This is how I felt the team on the pitch today.”