Chelsea captain Cesar Azpilicueta has hailed Saul for his “absolutely spot on” reaction to his disappointing Premier League debut, writes the Mirror.
Saul, 26, joined the Blues on a season-long loan from Atletico Madrid on deadline day and Thomas Tuchel handed him his first start against Aston Villa on Saturday.
While Chelsea battled to a hard-fought 3-0 victory, Saul lasted just 45 minutes before he was replaced by Jorginho following a sloppy first half.
Tuchel confessed the Spain international “struggled” in a blunt verdict after the match – and Saul has been making the utmost effort to set things right since his Stamford Bridge nightmare.
Azpilicueta opened up on his compatriot’s response to his half-time substitution and labelled him a “great player” as he spoke ahead of Tuesday’s Champions League opener against Zenit St Petersburg.
“Saul is a great player, I know him since his days in the national team, he has great experience at the highest level with Atletico Madrid in the Champions League,” said the Blues skipper.
“Of course, when he signed for Chelsea he had a bit of a stressful last hours in the transfer window, he arrived in a new country, had just a few training sessions, first game against a good opposition, they were very aggressive, it’s normal sometimes you need a bit more time to adapt.
“His response has been absolutely spot on. His desire to improve, asking questions, he wants to adapt as quick as possible.
“Some players need more time than others, that’s completely natural.
“He has our full support. He’s a great addition, I’m very happy to have him in our team. I’m sure he’ll keep growing and help the team because we need it from everybody. I’m sure he’ll be an important player in the season.”
Saul will be pleased to have Azpilicueta’s backing after Tuchel delivered a scathing verdict on his debut, although the German also took the blame for his performance.
“We could see Saul struggle to adapt a bit to the intensity, instructions, style of play and intensity of the Premier League,” said the Chelsea boss.
“[It was] very hard, very hard. You can not do it or you can do it. He was happy to do it, but I told him it’s my responsibility.
“He struggled a bit with ball losses and created some half chances, chances for Aston Villa, I thought better to change him.”
Saul previously claimed Azpilicueta, as well as fellow Spain internationals Kepa Arrizabalaga and Marcos Alonso, played a key role in convincing him to move to Chelsea, who have a £30million option to buy him next summer.