Chelsea were working late into deadline day to get one more transfer over the line; a transfer they believe will give them the edge in this year’s Premier League title race.
The player, Atletico Madrid’s highly-rated midfielder Saul Niguez, was once touted with a move to Manchester United. Thereafter, the versatile Spaniard was linked with every Champions League contending team, but it’s the 2020/21 Champions, who won the race for his signature.
— Saúl Ñiguez (@saulniguez) September 2, 2021
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Now before this late deadline day signing, it can be argued that the London side already had a title-winning squad and midfield, so where does Saul fit in, and where will he play?
Saul was born in Elche, Alicante and has played in Madrid all his life. He had two years in Real Madrid’s youth system before moving across town to Atletico, where he has been ever since, bar a loan spell at Rayo Vallecano in 2013.
The Spain national has played in a plethora of positions, with Atleti manager Diego Simeone playing him across four different midfield positions, including out wide, central-attacking and, in a holding position. Saul was also deployed as a central defender in his loan spell at Rayo Vallecano.
Where the player really excels is in the number eight, box-to-box role. He is excellent at moving the ball forward, be that through long balls, short passes or driving dribbles. He also isn’t afraid to try his luck at goal, being known for hitting shots from outside the box, yet also knowing when to arrive in the box, to pick up crosses and through balls.
— Chelsea FC (@ChelseaFC) September 2, 2021
It wouldn’t be wrong to think that Chelsea already have a player who can play this sort of role, that player being Mateo Kovacic, and though Kovacic can, indeed play this role, his game has become more of a passing role, making little dribbles to lay-off other players, such as Kai Havertz and Christian Pulisic.
The Blues play a midfield three and it is most likely that Saul will play as one of the two midfielders further up the pitch. He will be more or less interchangeable with Kovacic as N’golo Kante or Jorginho will hold, and Mason Mount will possibly be the third midfielder, depending on the position.
The Spaniard will attempt to form a stronger link with the front three and give Chelsea more of a presence in the box from deep midfield.
Saul could make his debut against Aston Villa when the Premier League returns.