To say Chelsea have been underwhelming at the back is a gross understatement.
No team in the top 10 conceded more than the Blues, whose 54 goals conceded was their worst league tally in 23 years. Frank Lampard urgently needed to invest in his backline, and after completing the signing of Ben Chilwell from Leicester, attention turned to recruiting a centre-back for the new season.
What looked to be a difficult search took just a few days to be settled, albeit with a short-term option. Thiago Silva has signed for Chelsea from French champions Paris Saint-Germain, joining Chilwell, Timo Werner and Hakim Ziyech in arriving at Stamford Bridge this year. Joining on a free transfer, it is an absolute bargain for the Blues.
Chelsea’s defence was leaking, but Silva has come to fill that gap.
Silva is a fantastic signing for Lampard, offering everything he could want in a defender. Perhaps the Brazilian’s most crucial trait is his leadership – something Chelsea have been vying for since John Terry left in 2017. With all due respect to current captain César Azpilicueta, they have not had the same calibre of leader since Terry.
After wearing the captain’s armband for club and country, Silva is the perfect leader to join Chelsea. Even if he comes in as vice-captain to Azpilicueta – which is the best choice in order to respect the Spaniard’s status – his presence and experience at the back will be a vital attribute to bolster the Blues’ backline.
Silva is a proven player at the peak of the game, shown by his 26 trophies won across three clubs. The 35-year-old is rightly renowned as one of the game’s finest defenders, and the fact that Lampard has managed to pry him away without paying a penny is a stunning piece of transfer business.
For everything they have been lacking in defence, Silva is the answer.
Whether it was the lack of leadership, no real organisation or an absent ability to defend set-pieces, Silva ticks almost every box you could want from a centre-back. The thought of Kurt Zouma and Fikayo Tomori flourishing alongside him is a sight to behold, while Andreas Christensen could take the next step in his career with a new partner.
Silva’s statistics compared to Chelsea’s centre-back quartet are superior, showing just how excellent his recruitment is. Looking at their respective league numbers alone from last season gives for startling reading, and although they arise from different circumstances, the overall consensus is clear.
Silva had the best passing accuracy by far, completing a remarkable 95% of his passes per game. The Brazilian kept more clean sheets (8) than the rest, while also coming out on top in winning duels across the pitch. The numbers give for pretty reading for Chelsea’s new defender – as if his performances were not enough sound proof.
|Thiago Silva||Antonio Rüdiger||Andreas Christensen||Kurt Zouma||Fikayo Tomori|
|Interceptions per game||1.2||0.8||1.4||2.1||1.5|
|Total duels won||68%||58%||62%||65%||62%|
|Tackles per game||1.3||1.4||1.8||0.8||1.9|
All four centre-backs can vastly improve with Silva among the ranks, benefitting hugely from his experience, veteran status and world-class prestige. Chelsea needed a leader, and they have got one. They needed a world-class, hard-hitting centre-back, one who echoed back to the glory days of Terry and was a proven serial winner – enter Silva.
Everything about Silva seems perfect, but his arrival does not come without consequences. The Brazilian turns 36 in September, and while he has a good few years before the twilight of his career, there is reasonable cause for concern over his age. It is a positive in terms of experience, but poses a big risk in Lampard’s long-term plan.
Signing a short-term fix for a long-term project is not the wisest move, however you look at it. Chelsea’s defence could be unstoppable for the next two years, but when Silva eventually hangs up his boots, the search for a suitable centre-back will resume. It is a big gamble to sign a 35-year-old defender, but his credentials suggest otherwise.
There are two ways to look at Silva joining Chelsea.
On one hand, he is a fantastic defensive recruitment. He is exactly the player needed to move a step closer to being title challengers, and will certainly revolutionise Chelsea’s backline. Along with Chilwell and Azpilicueta either side of him, the Blues could form a formidable defence worthy of securing the Premier League crown.
On the other hand, Silva only has a few years left before retirement. The risk of housing his sorry decline is immense, and however much of a steal it is, signing a 35-year-old defender in a squad built on promoting youth seems counter-productive. Chelsea will need to find a long-term choice eventually, and delaying that search feels risky.
Are there disadvantages to Silva signing for Chelsea? Yes, undoubtedly. But when you weigh up both sides, it is hard not to accept exactly what the club desired: a top defender. For all their attacking prowess in Pulisic, Ziyech and Werner, Chelsea could not challenge for silverware without a reinforced defence.
Chelsea desperately wanted a top centre-back, and they have found that in Silva. It may not fit the criteria of Lampard’s long-term, youth-led revolution, but the Blues needed to invest in their defence, and they did. There can be few complaints in that regard: Chelsea needed defenders, and they got them.
It will be a wonderful sight to see Silva grace the Premier League, as the English top flight welcomes one of the game’s finest modern defenders. The Chelsea puzzle is continuing to fall into place, and the Brazilian is sure to be an integral part of Frank Lampard’s Chelsea.
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