Thomas Tuchel has urged Chelsea fans to take it easy on midfielder Saul Niguez after he was targeted by abuse on social media.
The Atletico Madrid loanee continues to struggle at Stamford Bridge, with his latest cameo - 25 minutes at the end of the 1-1 draw with Everton - leaving supporters feeling disappointed.
Saul posted on Instagram on Saturday but quickly removed the picture after he was targeted by hundreds of abusive comments, many of which continued on his older posts once this one was taken down.
"Was he the first player to struggle in the Premier League? No and he won't be the last one. We protect our players and I will protect our players always. He played [against Everton] as a No.6, No.9 and as a wing-back.
"Is that fair to him? No, also it is not. Put it into context and you will have a more moderate picture and reaction. I understand people are disappointed after [the draw] but reactions like this are the reasons why I am not involved on social media.
"It is why I protect myself and you can get carried away. I can only hope Saul does not read it and why should he? He knows what he needs to do to improve and he is doing everything. He struggles at the moment and we are still trying to find the best version of him and will not stop pushing."
Saul has managed nine appearances for Chelsea so far this season, just two of which have been starts in the Premier League, and the Spaniard is yet to force his way up the pecking order like most expected him to when he arrived on transfer deadline day in September,
Tuchel has preferred to play the unfit duo of Jorginho and Ruben Loftus-Cheek in recent weeks, keeping Saul on the bench even though he is the club's only fully fit central midfielder.