Saúl Ñíguez’s Chelsea debut lasted all of 45 minutes last weekend, with the new arrival getting unceremoniously, and deservedly, hooked at half time after an error-strewn and off-pace showing against Aston Villa. Saúl himself acknowledged that it was a day to forget and forget quickly — though in a more constructive sense, it’s a day to learn from and learn from quickly.
The idea of a professional footballer having to adjust to playing professional football in a professional football league is often a bit of an oversold idea — often more marketing and mythology than reality — but there are certainly instances where players need some time to acclimatize themselves to their new surroundings, both on and off the pitch. It’s like starting a new job in any field; at the very least, you need to learn your new coworkers’ names.
“After my poor performance in my first match, Thiago Silva in particular supported me a lot. He said to me, “My first game with Chelsea was much worse! Believe me and don’t worry about it.”’
And in this case, the only real way to learn what is needed is by doing. There isn’t any corporate training material with badly acted videos to help you prepare for a Premier League match. That makes it a bit of a tricky proposition, but Saúl isn’t the first, nor will he be the last to find himself in such a situation. And Tuchel and all the others will be there to guide him through it.
“We have guys who experienced the same difficult start in the team and this team is a very supportive team so everybody shared their experiences also from their first matches in the Premier League. Me as a coach the same. [...] We don’t doubt his quality and ability to adapt. It takes maybe now a bit of time to get it off his shoulders but the good thing is he is of an age where he does not worry too much.
“He is self-confident and the good thing is everybody in the dressing room and in the club knows him very well and played many times against him so there are no doubts. It just needs a bit of time and the best thing to react is what he did. He trains good and he trains with intensity and this will prepare for the next time he is on the pitch for us.”
-Thomas Tuchel; source: Football.London
Everyone wants Saúl to succeed, with a possible reward of a future contract at stake as well. He might not play in high stakes games for a while (especially with Kanté back), but it’s obviously far too early for any declaration more definitive than that. Perhaps a shot at Villa again coming up in the League Cup midweek would be a good opportunity for a second impression.