How Saul makes Chelsea stronger

How Saul makes Chelsea stronger

What many Chelsea fans don’t know is that the club never signed Saul Niguez because they lacked midfielders,but for this one reason unknown to many.

Saul Niquez

Saul Niguez had become a victim of his own
versatility at Atletico Madrid but he can shine
in Thomas Tuchel’s Chelsea midfield; watch
Chelsea vs Aston Villa live on Sky Sports
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off 5.30pm

After the £97.5m signing of Romelu Lukaku and
their battling performance against Liverpool at
Anfield prior to the international break, European
champions Chelsea further enhanced their title
credentials with the Deadline Day signing of Saul
Niguez.
“Just another excellent player,” is how Gary Neville
described him in the wake of his arrival from
Atletico Madrid. Saul, whose season-long loan deal
contains a £30m option to buy next summer,
brings “massive experience” to a squad already full
of it.
“He fits the Chelsea profile of signing players who
are ready,” added the Sky Sports pundit.
Saul’s pedigree is indisputable. At 26, he arrives at
Stamford Bridge having already amassed 340
appearances for Atletico and won 19 caps for
Spain. The “massive experience” Neville
mentioned includes trophy wins both domestically
and in Europe.

The most recent came just a few months ago,
when he helped Atletico claim La Liga glory, but it
was time for a change.
Diego Simeone once said Saul had “all the
qualities to be one of the world’s best midfielders”
but his standing had slipped at the Wanda
Metropolitano Stadium in recent years.
In his introductory interview as a Chelsea player,
Saul described himself as a “team player” first and
foremost. His selflessness is an admirable trait but
it has not always helped him on a personal level.

He broke into the Atletico team as an all-action
central midfielder during the 2014/15 campaign
and went on to keep his place there for several
seasons. But even before that, he had
demonstrated an ability – and willingness – to play
in different positions.
Indeed, during the 2013/14 season on loan with
Rayo Vallecano, his first at La Liga level, he split
his time between midfield and central defence.
Over the years back at Atletico, he began to be
used everywhere from left-back to right wing.
His versatility was an undoubted asset to Simeone
but it prevented Saul from flourishing in his
favoured role.
Instead, he was moved around to accommodate
others.

Last season, he found himself behind his former
academy team-mate Koke, Marcos Llorente and
even the previously out-of-favour Thomas Lemar in
the midfield pecking order.
The subsequent arrival of Rodrigo de Paul for
£30m from Udinese further increased the
competition for places in Simeone’s midfield.
Saul did start their first two La Liga games of the
season, against Celta Vigo and Elche, but both
times at left wing-back.

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In typically selfless style, Saul did what was asked
of him with total dedication in those games, even
providing the assist for Angel Correa’s decisive
goal in the 2-1 win over Celta.
Now, though, he hopes to return to a central
position at Chelsea. Leaving Atletico was “hard”,
he added last week, “but it was a great opportunity
for me and for my career and I had to take the
chance.”
Saul went into more detail about the move to
Chelsea in a separate interview with Ibai Llanos, a
popular eSports personality in Spain. In it, he
revealed Thomas Tuchel had offered him
reassurance that he intends to use him in midfield.
“That is the most important reason for my
decision,” said Saul. “The three midfielders who are
playing are at a high level and it will not be easy to
start, but if I put my mind to it and fight it, I can do
it.”
Jorginho, N’Golo Kante and Mateo Kovacic all
bring different qualities to Tuchel’s midfield.
Jorginho is a metronomic passer who dictates the
play and orchestrates attacks; Kante is a tireless
runner who offers outstanding defensive coverage;
Kovacic is a powerful ball-carrier who excels in
one-on-one situations.
Saul Niguez speaks to Marcos Alonso in Chelsea
training
Saul, though, offers a bit of everything. Sergio
Busquets, who has partnered him in Spain’s
midfield on numerous occasions at international
level, describes him as a “very complete player”.
Luis Enrique, Spain’s manager, has used the same
term.
Neville, meanwhile, expects him to strengthen
Chelsea “enormously”. “In midfield, with Jorginho,
N’Golo Kante and Mateo Kovacic, they already look
really strong,” he said.
“The addition of Saul makes the stronger and
stronger. You only need two in there with the way
they play, but Saul’s addition means they can
challenge on all fronts.”
Saul describes himself as a “box-to-box midfielder”
who likes “joining the attack and scoring goals” but
Tuchel will value his defensive qualities just as
highly as his attacking ones.
Spanish football expert Alvaro Montero on Saul Niguez’s
move to Chelsea
Playing under Simeone demands a willingness to
“suffer” out of possession and Saul excels in that
regard. He is tactically intelligent and defensively
diligent. Even last season, he averaged more
tackles per 90 minutes (2.5) than any other
Atletico player.
Saul has a history of impressing in big games too.
One of his first goals for Atletico was a stunning
overhead kick in a 4-0 thrashing of bitter rivals Real
Madrid in 2015. He was only 20 at the time but
soon developed a habit of shining in the
Champions League too.
When Atletico famously overcame Liverpool in the
last-16 stage of the competition in 2020, Saul
scored the winner in the first leg – becoming only
the second Atletico player to reach 10 Champions
League goals after Antoine Griezmann – before
producing an outstanding defensive display in the
second, winning 10 of his 11 aerial duels at Anfield
and highlighting another of his best attributes.
Indeed, Saul’s aerial ability is just another factor
behind Tuchel’s decision to take him to Stamford
Bridge – and it is just another area in which he will
strengthen them. Chelsea’s title credentials already
looked compelling.
‘An excellent signing for Chelsea’
Spanish football expert Terry Gibson:
“I wouldn’t say his form has suffered in recent
years, but his reputation has, because he’s
been playing here, there and everywhere,
which has seen him left out of the Spain
squad.
“I’ve always thought at the age of 26, he
should be nailed on to be in that squad. But if
Chelsea use him in midfield, which I expect
them to do, I still feel the best is yet to come.
“He’s dynamic, he gets forward, he can score
goals, he puts his foot in, he works hard. He
has all the traits you need to play for Simeone
and I think he’s an excellent signing for
Chelsea.
“I genuinely feel he is as good as it comes in
central midfield. I’m surprised the signing
took so long because as soon as he was
available, and he has been throughout the
summer, I thought someone would go and
snap him up straight away.”

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Saul, though, offers a bit of everything. Sergio
Busquets, who has partnered him in Spain’s
midfield on numerous occasions at international
level, describes him as a “very complete player”.
Luis Enrique, Spain’s manager, has used the same
term.
Neville, meanwhile, expects him to strengthen
Chelsea “enormously”. “In midfield, with Jorginho,
N’Golo Kante and Mateo Kovacic, they already look
really strong,” he said.
“The addition of Saul makes the stronger and
stronger. You only need two in there with the way
they play, but Saul’s addition means they can
challenge on all fronts.”
Saul describes himself as a “box-to-box midfielder”
who likes “joining the attack and scoring goals” but
Tuchel will value his defensive qualities just as
highly as his attacking ones.

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