If you asked most Chelsea fans what they wanted to happen before the transfer window had started, it would have been a top-class forward and someone to play in midfield.
The signing of Saúl Ñíguez on loan in the final throes of deadline day helped complete that objective and means the Blues have an impressive squad depth in every position to fight on all fronts.
Chelsea have already got their hands on the first trophy of the season in the Super Cup but in order to add more silverware this season, multiple options are required, particularly to try and bridge a 19-point gap to last season’s Premier League winners Manchester City.
It was difficult to be too big a fan of the proposed Saul move when the links first emerged but the more time has gone on the more it’s started to make sense.
Drafting the Spaniard in on loan means the club secures the midfielder cover they needed and gives Chelsea that option next summer to decide whether to buy him or buy someone else that was unattainable in this window. If you aren’t buying at the top level then don’t lower your sights seems to be Chelsea’s approach at the moment and it’s difficult to argue with that strategy.
And Saul’s arrival now gives Tuchel the kind of squad depth he requires to fully push City all the way in the league and fight on multiple fronts with two players for every position to allow for rotation between competitions.
Chelsea allowed third-choice goalkeeper Willy Caballero to leave when his contract expired and replaced him with Marcus Bettinelli from Fulham. While he is not expected to play often this season, giving competition for second-choiceKepa Arrizabalaga when Edouard Mendy leave for the Africa Cup of Nations in January is a smart move.
At wing-back, Chelsea have the same names as last season in Ben Chilwell and Marcos Alonso duelling for the left wing-back role. Reece James will likely have Callum Hudson-Odoi and Cesar Azpilicueta ready to step in if needed on the other flank.
One will give you a more solid base in the experience of Azpilicueta and Hudson-Odoi will be more attacking minded for teams that set up with a low block and if some energy and trickery is needed off the bench.
In the centre of defence four of last season’s squad make up the majority of the options available to Tuchel with Azpilicueta an option further back in addition to Andreas Christensen, Thiago Silva and Antonio Rudiger but now with Trevoh Chalobah back from his loan spell with Lorient, it should help boost the competition for a starting berth. Malang Sarr is still around and could potentially help fill that left-sided role if necessary. Xavier Mbuyamba could also be a defender to keep an eye on from the club’s development squad after joining last summer from Barcelona.
In central midfield with the signing of Saul, Chelsea now have five very good footballers that will be fighting it out for two places in the side. In addition to Jorginho, N’Golo Kante and Mateo Kovacic the Blues now boast a fourth-choice midfielder that offers cover if one of the others do miss out due to injury, if in need of rest between matches and keep them all on their toes to ensure that if any player’s performance level drops, a stand-in is there ready and waiting.
This will be vital in pushing the squad to be operating at a high level every game in pursuit of the top honours. Ruben Loftus-Cheek has also stayed put and will compete for a role in the team alongside Saul at the heart of the Chelsea team.
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The fear of losing Kante to injury and not having anyone to cover the irreplaceable Frenchman subsided somewhat the moment Saul’s arrival was confirmed.
The attacking armoury Tuchel has at his disposal to make use of in the two No.10 roles is a frightening prospect for opposition fans. Kai Havertz and Mason Mount have been picked from the outset mostly so far this season but standout pre-season player Hakim Ziyech has been missing with a shoulder injury and Christian Pulisic missed ten days due to a positive Covid-19 test.
The American is expected to play more of a role next season and Hudson-Odoi could easily get a chance in the more advanced wide positions at some stage this season. He needs to take any opportunity he gets this season.
Romelu Lukaku is the statement signing of the window and, as he showed against Arsenal, he’s ready to lead the line for Chelsea and be ably backed up by Timo Werner and Kai Havertz, who can operate in a central attacking role if needed. The depth in a number of key areas now looks in far ruder health as a result of summer signings, returning loanees and improving players.
Chelsea still have the likes of fringe squad members Charly Musonda, Ross Barkley and Lewis Baker on their books and may look to make use of them in cup competitions to ensure no players are failing to get match action.
Tuchel now has to pick his strongest starting XI and who to name on the bench from his matchday 20 each week and it is the kind of squad-related headache any manager would want. Chelsea now have the options to push on and give the Blues boss more certainty when shuffling the pack.
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