'A big challenge': 27-year-old Chelsea player says he wishes he'd played more minutes this season
Chelsea’s Saul Niguez has voiced his frustration that he’s not played more minutes this season but completely understands it’s a difficult starting line-up to break into.
Saul, who joined in the summer on a season-long loan from Atletico Madrid, has spent a lot of time on the bench this season.
The 27-year-old’s rocky start with a couple of dodgy performances made it a tough introduction to English football. However, he’s definitely turned the corner in the past couple of months.
He’s made 14 appearances across all competitions so far this campaign, including in four of the five matches in the Carabao Cup en route to the final.
The left-footed central midfielder is in the tough position of competing for a starting position alongside senior figures in the squad such as N’Golo Kante, Mateo Kovacic and Jorginho.
Saul has been discussing his role within the group at Stamford Bridge this season:
“Personally, I would like to have played more but I also understand that this team won the Champions League last season so it is difficult to get into the team. I feel good and every day I’m feeling better and prepared for when the head coach needs me,” Saul said.
“…When you leave your home and join the champions of Europe, it’s obviously a big challenge. You can only put two out of Jorginho, N’Golo Kante, Mateo Kovacic and Ruben Loftus-Cheek in a midfield four, and two of them were nominated for the Ballon d’Or!’
Chelsea will need to keep rotating
Thankfully, Saul’s recent improvement should give Chelsea manager Thomas Tuchel less worry about rotating in the centre of the park to keep players fresh. Tuchel even recently said the Blues loanee has “stepped up” in appearances.
There is so much to play for from now until the end of the season for the club.
First of all, they play in the FA Cup this weekend against Plymouth Argyle. It’s a competition where Chelsea lost in last season’s final to Leicester City, so it would be great to go one step further.
Secondly, the squad will be competing in the Club World Cup next week as the reigning champions of Europe.
In addition, the Champions League resumes soon with the knockout rounds and a last-16 tie against Lille. They’ve got an exciting Carabao Cup final against Liverpool at the end of February, too.
The cup competition schedule will coincide with vital Premier League games, so Tuchel will definitely need to make the most of his group.