Thomas Tuchel has praised the performances of Antonio Rudiger amid his ongoing contractual situation, while reacting to the struggles Saul Niguez encountered on debut for Chelsea.
The Blues have made an unbeaten start to the season after finishing last year with the Champions League trophy. They have added the Super Cup to their cabinet and are now aiming to make a better impression domestically under Tuchel. The squad they have is more than capable of improving upon last season’s fourth place finish.
One of the key performers since Tuchel took charge in January has been Rudiger, who looked likely to leave the club this time last year but has knuckled down and established himself as a regular starter once more.
However, those exit concerns have been growing again due to the fact he is in the final year of his contract. There have been rumours of interest from some of Europe’s biggest clubs, such as Real Madrid or Paris Saint-Germain. Even Chelsea’s upcoming opponents Tottenham have been linked.
But Tuchel is hopeful his German compatriot can continue his stay at Stamford Bridge after praising his form.
“I hope they find a solution but it is not only between coaches and players and what we wish for,” the manager said. “It is between the club, the player and the agent.
“He has been excellent, a very consistent player on a high level, calm and focused. Everything is in place but sometimes players need a bit longer. It is nothing new from our side.”
Unlike Rudiger, someone who is yet to get going in a Chelsea shirt is Saul, who joined the club on loan from Atletico Madrid on deadline day.
A vastly experienced player over in Spain, the midfielder’s star has faded in recent years but he was still well in demand. Chelsea won the race to sign him for the season, although the early signs on his debut were not as positive.
Still, it is a long process and Tuchel has no concerns that Chelsea will soon see the best of Saul.
“We have guys who lack experience the same as him,” he said. “They all shared the experiences from their first matches.
“When I was on the sideline for my first match, it was at another level. If it comes up to you every three days it is quite impressive, maybe a shock of cultures.
“We don’t doubt his quality. It takes maybe a bit of time to get it off his shoulders but he is at an age where he does not worry too much.”
Tuchel believes Chelsea can improve
Indeed, Tuchel thinks that as well as Saul, the Chelsea team as a whole can still improve. Even though they have made a positive start results wise, there is a feeling that they are yet to hit their stride.
The former PSG boss agrees and says it is nothing out of the ordinary.
“Yeah but I didn’t expect us to be at our top level early in September, especially after this pre-season and Covid,” he explained. “For me at the moment, it is more important that we are competitive, we play relentless and have belief to overcome difficult minutes and periods within games.
“Aston Villa played at their top level [in Chelsea’s 3-0 win last week], this is what we have to accept and respect. Competition is high. It is a good thing that we are able to win.”
Clarifying his comments, Tuchel insisted that there has been little wrong with their performances so far – just that there is margin for growth.
“I’m not saying we’re not playing well,” he added. “We can play better but we are tough to beat.
“A win helps with atmosphere, keep calm and also be open to criticism. In the moment, I feel everybody is aware that we can do better. We are not really bad but we can do better.”