'Very close': Tuchel says he almost started 26-year-old for Chelsea against Southampton but decided not to

Thomas Tuchel admitted he almost started Chelsea loanee Saul Niguez in the Premier League win over Southampton on Saturday.

Tuchel was quoted by the club website saying the Spaniard had been on the verge of featuring from the first whistle against the Saints.

As it transpired, Saul did not play any part in the weekend’s match.

Photo by Chris Lee – Chelsea FC/Chelsea FC via Getty Images

The man from Atletico Madrid instead sat on the bench all afternoon, soaking up the South West London rain.

Story of the Southampton success

Chelsea eventually finished 3-1 winners at Stamford Bridge, thanks to goals from Trevoh Chalobah, Timo Werner and Ben Chilwell.

Ruben Loftus-Cheek made a first league start of the season, whilst Ross Barkley also earned a rare outing.

Mateo Kovacic partnered Loftus-Cheek in midfield, meaning Jorginho came on as a substitute.

Mason Mount was one of three changes made by Tuchel, which left Saul as the only unused midfielder on the day.

Photo by Chris Lee – Chelsea FC/Chelsea FC via Getty Images

“Saul does not need to worry, just work hard, and then the chances will come,” said the Blues boss.

“There will always be tactical choices, there will be choices on current form, there will be choices on connections on the field, and Saul was very, very close to starting on Saturday

“In the end I decided against it because I thought if we put him in another high-pressing match, against an opponent who is pressing so high in the centre of the pitch, would it be fair to him to say okay now prove it, and let’s see if your adaption has gone further.”

Saul saga

Saul’s situation since joining from Atletico on deadline day has not been a straightforward one.

His two appearances for Chelsea have failed to fill fans with much confidence.

He was dragged off at half-time during the 3-0 triumph over Aston Villa last month.

Photo by Chloe Knott – Danehouse/Getty Images

The 26-year-old managed marginally longer when the Blues faced Villa again but under the Carabao Cup spotlight.

Thanks to the international break, Saul will have to wait until at least the 16th for another bite at the cherry.

Although that date in the diary is a trip to highflying Brentford, a side that simply cannot be taken lightly.

Perhaps the subsequent fixtures – at home to Malmo in the Champions League and then Norwich City – will be a safer bet to throw Saul back into the mix.

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Nathaniel is a football journalist who graduated from the University of Derby. He has worked at Burton Albion as part of their media team for two years. Nathaniel produces regular articles for the club’s official website and match-day programme. He covered the 2018 U20 Women’s World Cup in Brittany and has reported from grounds ranging from non-league up to the Premier League.