Saul Niguez was handed his second appearance in a Chelsea shirt following his nightmare debut but will have been disappointed his manager has not kept his promise
Just two games into Saul Niguez’s Chelsea career and already boss Thomas Tuchel has gone back on a promise he made to the Spaniard when signing him last month.
The 26-year-old endured a tough time on his Premier League debut for the Blues just under a fortnight ago and was hauled off at half-time during the win over Aston Villa.
Having been left on the bench in Chelsea’s next two fixtures, Niguez was given another chance to showcase his talent against the same opposition in the Carabao Cup on Wednesday.
But despite coming to Stamford Bridge on the condition he would be playing in his favoured central midfield role, Niguez was actually deployed more on the left of a front three.
Instead, Ruben Loftus-Cheek was given the task of operating as Chelsea’s deepest midfielder in the No.6 role, while N’Golo Kante also featured prominently through the middle.
It will be disappointing for Niguez to find himself shunted out to the flank, particularly as playing in central midfield was a huge factor in him opting to move to the club on loan.
After completing his deadline day switch, he said: ” Chelsea has promised me to train in my position [central midfield], but to play we will see.
“To return to certain roles that I do not play in now – that is the most important reason for my decision.
“This transfer is a step out of my comfort zone for me. I believe that you will see a new Saul in a new [better] place.”
Niguez had become frustrated under Atletico Madrid boss Diego Simeone, who frequently used him in less natural positions.
Tuchel admitted after Niguez’s debut that he had maybe expected too much too soon from the midfielder, and his response perhaps goes some way to explaining why he didn’t put him back in the middle for the cup tie.
“It was a hard decision but I had the feeling he struggled,” Tuchel said after Niguez’s Premier League debut. “There were some big mistakes, passing mistakes, easy ball losses which is very unusual for him. He struggled with the intensity. You could see he isn’t fully adapted.
“Hopefully he can accept it was completely my responsibility. I had the feeling he could jump in and play at that level.
“I put him into a very difficult match after the international break and it was hard to adapt the physicality in general, and to the intensity and high pressing of Aston Villa. Also it was hard for him to adapt to our system and principles.
“I thought it was maybe better to change him and to give us more stability in the centre and switch the shape.”
Niguez fared little better in the cup, with Goal reporting he completed just 64.5% of his passes before being substituted in the 76th minute.
Chelsea did manage to edge out their opponents however, by way of a nail-biting penalty shootout.
The game had finished 1-1 in normal time after Cameron Archer’s goal cancelled out Timo Werner’s opener 10 minutes earlier.
Straight to spot kicks at the final whistle, Chelsea actually fell behind in the shootout as Ben Chilwell’s effort struck the crossbar.
But Kepa Arrizabalaga’s save from Marvelous Nakamba pulled them back level, before Ashley Young also hit the bar, eventually giving Romelu Lukaku the chance to seal the victory.