Chelsea boss Thomas Tuchel has admitted Saul Niguez was among eight players that he couldn’t trust to start the win over Southampton on Saturday afternoon. The Blues returned to the summit of the Premier League table by taking all three points at Stamford Bridge, but were forced to wait until the closing stages to secure the result.
Chelsea took an early lead through Trevoh Chalobah’s second goal of the season, with the defender scoring a diving header past Saints keeper Alex McCarthy.
However, the hosts were pegged back when James Ward-Prowse equalised from the penalty spot on the hour mark.
The Southampton midfielder was then shown a straight red card for a horror challenge on Jorginho with only 13 minutes remaining.
Chelsea went on to take full advantage of the extra man, with both Timo Werner and Ben Chilwell finding the net late on to secure the three points for Tuchel’s men.
Saul, who joined the Blues on a season-long loan deal over the summer, was left as an unused substitute on Saturday for the third successive Premier League game.
“In the end I decided against him because I thought to put him in another high pressing match, against an opponent pressing so high in the centre of the pitch, would it be fair to say: ‘Okay, now prove it and let’s see if your adaption has gone further?’
“I hesitated a little bit. He does not need to worry. Just work hard and adapt and the chances will come.
“We have only 11 to give a chance. I would like to see it in a positive way. If you turn it around of course you have eight players who we didn’t trust today from the beginning.
“This is a reality. I cannot hide from this reality.”
Saul is yet to feature for Chelsea in the league since making his Stamford Bridge bow against Villa, during which he was hauled off at half-time after a lacklustre performance.
Tuchel revealed after the match that he felt compelled to make the early change after watching Saul make a number of glaring errors in the opening 45 minutes.
“I had the feeling that he struggled,” the Blues boss told Sky Sports.
“There were some big mistakes, passing mistakes, and he struggled with the intensity. You could see he isn’t fully adapted.
“It’s completely my responsibility. I had the feeling he could jump in for us and play at that level.”