Chelsea: Can Thiago Silva really solve the Blues’ defensive problems?

LE HAVRE, FRANCE - JULY 12: Thiago Silva of PSG during the friendly match between Le Havre and Paris Saint Germain at Stade Oceane on July 12, 2020 in Le Havre, France. (Photo by Jean Catuffe/Getty Images)
LE HAVRE, FRANCE - JULY 12: Thiago Silva of PSG during the friendly match between Le Havre and Paris Saint Germain at Stade Oceane on July 12, 2020 in Le Havre, France. (Photo by Jean Catuffe/Getty Images) /

Chelsea is ever so close to announcing Thiago Silva as a Blues player on a free transfer from PSG, but does he solve the team’s defensive issues?

Thiago Silva has all but been announced as an official club signing by Chelsea. Many Chelsea fans believe that he’s a temporary answer to Chelsea’s defensive problems; yet, there are still a few fans that are skeptical about this signing. The Blues conceded 54 goals in the Premier League last season, can Silva be the reason they become defensively solid again?

There are certainly reasons to be excited, but there are also reasons to be cautious, as well. Therefore, the attitude of the Chelsea fanbase regarding this signing can only be described as cautiously optimistic.

Perhaps the biggest concern is the fact Silva turns 36 next month. The Premier League is considerably more intense than other leagues around the globe, particularly Ligue 1. Silva has never been accused of being  the fastest centerback either. That has its own disadvantages, especially in the Premier League and even more so in a team like Chelsea with the way Frank Lampard organizes his team. Chelsea fans excited about this signing should temper their excitement, even though there are circumstances in which he can turn out to be a very successful addition to the squad.

Silva mainly played a sweeper—or cover—role for Paris Saint-Germain last season, which makes sense seeing as he is no longer the most mobile player. His role requires a great deal of positional awareness and intelligence, both of which Silva seems to have in abundance. Silva didn’t lead his team in either interceptions per game (1.25) or in tackles per game (1.33) in Ligue 1 last season, but he did lead the team in clearances per game with 2.52.

Silva is definitely old school, blocking 0.71 shots per game, the most for PSG in the league last year. Another show of Silva’s intelligence is how difficult he is to beat 1-on-1, as he ranked best for times dribbled past per game (0.14) for PSG. The numbers definitely suggest that the former Brazil captain is a solid defender, even for a 35-year-old, albeit for a team that has been head and shoulders above every other team in its league for the better part of the last decade. Notwithstanding, the numbers don’t lie and they cannot be ignored.

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It is important to note that Silva is coming from a team that has been dominating his league for a considerable amount of time; therefore, he and his team will not have many defensive actions to make per game.

At 6-foot (183 cm), Silva will be Chelsea’s shortest senior centerback. However he won 31 aerial duels, only behind Marquinhos at 37 for PSG. Silva also rarely lost possession of the ball, 3.76 times per game, the only PSG players who lost less per game are either goalkeepers or attacking players. All these numbers point to a very reliable defender, which should prove useful in a league that values attacking more.

It is in Chelsea’s best interest that Lampard pairs Silva with a very intelligent and quick player like Kurt Zouma, especially if he doesn’t want to play a three centerback formation—which would evidently be perfect for Silva. The Brazilian has been playing a high line with PSG for years, so he should be more than capable of doing the job in the Premier League. The role assigned to Silva would be key to maximizing his influence for the Blues; it is important that Silva plays a sweeper role due to his age, lack of pace and intelligent reading of the game.

Silva has been at the heart of PSG’s defense for eight years and he has been captain at PSG for six years. His leadership qualities are not to be understated either, as he became the first foreign player to captain AC Milan in 50 years. He also captained the Brazil National Team for quite some time before Neymar stepped in.

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Chelsea needs more than a new central defender to fix its defensive issues, but if the numbers are anything to go by, Silva will be a fine addition to the Blues’ back line. He will go a long way in making the Blues more responsible defensively and in the long run, improving the unit.