John McGinn admitted Aston Villa tried to put a lot of pressure on new Chelsea midfielder Saul Niguez in the 3-0 defeat on Saturday.
For Saul, it was a rather disastrous Chelsea debut.
The 26-year-old uncharacteristically failed to win any of his seven ground duels, lost possession of the ball 10 times, including one error leading to an opposition shot.
The on-loan Atletico Madrid midfielder also did not make any tackle or interception in the first half. It was clear at that point, Chelsea were losing the midfield battle.
Thomas Tuchel made an obvious decision to replace Saul with Jorginho at half-time, which helped them gain control of the game more.
Interestingly, amid criticism of Saul’s debut, Villa ace McGinn jumped to his defence.
“He’s a top player. He’s one that I’ve watched for years in the Champions League and admired sometimes,” the Scotland international told Sky Sports (via Football Daily) when asked about Saul’s Chelsea debut.
“I had that as well, my first few games in the Premier League. It does take time to get used to the tempo.
“So we [tried] to steal the ball off him early and managed to work a couple of times.
“But they changed at half-time, and Jorginho calmed that down a little bit. It shows the quality that they have on the bench.”
Fortunately for Chelsea, Edouard Mendy and Thiago Silva were on top of their game and played crucial parts in helping them keep an unlikely clean sheet.
On the other end of the pitch, Romelu Lukaku’s clinical finishing also made the final scoreline look far more comfortable for Chelsea than it should have been.
Saul himself has admitted on social media that it was not the debut he expected.
It was always a big task for him to play the holding midfield role and having to dictate the tempo of the game straight away in his first game.
Hopefully, he can adjust to the Premier League tempo very soon as Chelsea will need him, particularly amid N’Golo Kante’s injury absence.