Most people assumed that Saul Niguez was signed in the summer to act as Chelsea’s fourth choice central midfielder, but perhaps he’s lower down the pecking order than first appeared.
The Blues signed Saul on a season-long loan from Atletico Madrid, with an agreement in place that includes the option to sign him on a permanent £30million deal next summer (Evening Standard).
Saul, 26, is a highly experienced central midfielder that has showed periods of top-class form on the biggest stages during his Atletico career.
However, the left-footed central midfielder has moved to England for the first time in an attempt to try rediscover the best version of himself.
N’Golo Kante, Jorginho and Mateo Kovacic are the locked in three best central midfielders at Stamford Bridge right now. They are effectively fighting over two positions, albeit manager Thomas Tuchel has shown there is a system where he can use all three together.
That should leave Saul as the prime candidate to cover that trio, something desperately needed with a busy fixture list. But, a slow start to his Chelsea career means he may risk being lower down Tuchel’s pecking order right now.
Saul and Ruben Loftus-Cheek in battle for fourth CM spot
Of course, Chelsea fans shouldn’t be too quick to write off Saul after a slow start in English football. He’s someone adjusting to a new country and his Wednesday cup display showed many more positive signs than a poor league debut earlier this month.
This opinion is centred around the surprise performance from 25-year-old Chelsea teammate Ruben Loftus-Cheek in the Carabao Cup win over Aston Villa last night.
Saul and Loftus-Cheek both started in midweek, but it was the latter that really stood out for his class in the centre of the park. It’s the Englishman who has the edge if you base it off one game.
Saul should go from strength to strength as he settles in London, but the way Loftus-Cheek performed is a sign he’s ready to push for more minutes in the league XI.
They are similar players in the way they can dribble through the lines and offer a physical presence, so it’ll be intriguing to see which one comes out on top between them in the coming months.
It may be a big indication in the next couple of league games who’s in pole position, depending on who Tuchel turns to on his bench.
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