Chelsea won the race to secure the signature of Atletico Madrid midfielder Saul Niguez after much of the summer transfer window saw him touted with a move to just about every ‘big six’ side in the Premier League.
However, the Blues could be presented with an issue surrounding Saul’s positioning very soon as details of his exit from Diego Simeone’s side emerge and appear to be centred around his unhappiness over where he was being deployed on the pitch.
Chelsea boss Thomas Tuchel has enjoyed a stunning start to life at the Stamford Bridge helm, winning the Champions League and UEFA Super Cup in his first eight months in charge.
Much of the German boss’s success has been inspired by his tactical prowess, Tuchel making Chelsea one of the most defensively resilient sides on the continent – as exhibited by the recent 1-1 draw at Anfield, where Chelsea were down to ten men for much of the contest.
One way Tuchel has made the Blues so hard to beat is by perfecting his defensive set-up, which is a back-three in position and reverts to a back-five without the ball.
This formation relies heavily on wing-backs, a position Saul was forced to play for Atletico Madrid against his wishes and was reportedly a factor in his decision to leave for west London on loan.
Saul made three appearances for Atlético this season, operating as a left wing-back in all of them – something club president Enrique Cerezo thinks contributed to his unhappiness in Madrid.
“Saul was not very satisfied in the position in which he was playing and has decided to leave. Wherever he goes he will be a great player and much loved by Atlético de Madrid,” Cerezo explained to El Larguero.
Given Chelsea’s central midfield pairing of Jorginho and Ngolo Kante has been the foundation of immense success, it is unlikely to think Tuchel will tweak it to accommodate Saul.
As a result, Saul may have to come to terms with the prospect of playing in a number of different positions if he is to cement his place in Tuchel’s plans.
That could be vying for an attacking midfield role with the likes of Mason Mount, or as a make-shift wing-back – something Callum Hudson-Odoi has had to become familiar with under Tuchel.
In a bid to boost Saul’s fitness and increase his chances of making his debut in the next Premier League game at home to Aston Villa, Chelsea organised an in-house game at their Cobham training ground on Friday.