Thomas Tuchel’s having to play Jorginho and N’Golo Kante despite his claim about their fitness issues in the defeat to Manchester City puts a question mark over Saul Niguez’s loan decision.
The on-loan Atletico Madrid midfielder was an unused substitute on Saturday, as Tuchel even opted to use Ruben Loftus-Cheek ahead of him in the second half.
Loftus-Cheek did quite well, to be fair, but the fact that Tuchel had to field both Jorginho and Kante, whom he deemed not fully fit, shows that the Chelsea manager does not fully trust his other midfield options yet.
Was Saul not signed to provide cover in midfield for these situations in the first place?
In Tuchel’s defence, Saul’s latest displays clearly suggest that he was not ready, particularly for such a big game. Perhaps, Saul just needs more time to adapt to Premier League football.
But if Chelsea are to challenge for the title, they might not have the time for that.
When the club decided to send Billy Gilmour on loan to Norwich City, they should have at least prepared another reliable backup midfield option as a replacement.
Bringing in Saul on loan was not necessarily a bad decision, but Chelsea waited until the very last minute to complete the deal and as a result, he has barely had the time to adjust to a new team.
Given Kante’s recent injury record, it seems inevitable that Tuchel will have to rotate his midfield a lot throughout the season.
At this point, the German will have to rely a lot on Jorginho and Kovacic, and could result in overload.
Loftus-Cheek has fortunately shown positive performances in the number six role, likely to the surprise of many, and therefore could become the fourth-choice central midfield option this season.
Still, it does not hide the fact that Chelsea underestimated the impact that Gilmour’s loan exit could have this season, and Saul’s arrival has not solved this problem.