Loftus-Cheek’s revival gives Tuchel a dilemma ahead of Brentford clash


hen Chelsea completed the deadline-day signing of Saul Niguez, the feeling was that the benefits would be two-fold.

Not only were they strengthening their midfield with a proven winner at the highest level.

But he was also expected to drive on Mateo Kovacic to even greater heights, with the Croatian’s position considered to be under the greatest threat following his arrival.

Instead, the player who appears to have responded most to Saul’s move to Stamford Bridge is one whose Chelsea’s career looked to be over as a consequence.

Ruben Loftus-Cheek’s future was already bleak after returning from an unsuccessful loan at Fulham, let alone after seeing another obstacle to the first team placed in his way.

There was no great desire on his part to head out on another loan, but as the transfer window entered its final stages, that remained a possibility.

His prospects were summed up by the fact Thomas Tuchel had to separate his bloated squad in to two groups on the eve of the season – those who won the Champions League with him last term and another made up of Chelsea’s returning army of loan rangers.

Had a suitable club come forward, Loftus-Cheek would have been on the road again – and as a deal for Saul was secured in the final minutes of deadline day, he must have feared the worst.

Yet, as the Premier League paused for the latest international break, the 25-year-old’s resurgence has been one of the unlikely stories of the season so far.

His chances have been improved by Saul’s own struggles – selected ahead of him in Chelsea’s 3-1 win against Southampton, despite the absence of N’Golo Kante due to Covid and a fatigued Jorginho being rested.

It was an enormous show of faith from Tuchel – and one that had been coming.

He came off the bench in key games against Juventus and Manchester City, while Saul remained unused – and lasted the full 90 minutes in the Carabao Cup win against Aston Villa as the Spain international was withdrawn.

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