Thiago Silva has been Chelsea’s most valuable acquisition this season—perhaps the most important overall player, as well. He’s influenced the Blues on and off the pitch, instantly becoming a leader in the dressing room. The Brazilian’s maturity and experience have rubbed off on defenders, like Reece James, while his adept play style has transformed the back line, regardless of formation. Silva’s put in some of the most impressive defensive shifts seen in recent years at Chelsea this season, including his masterclass at Tottenham before coming off with an injury.
The 36-year-old has yet to play a single minute for the Blues since coming off in the 36′ at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium. It was said at the time that the trip to Southampton would be his target return date. Silva worked tirelessly to get himself ready for the clash with the Saints and although he returned to training on Thursday, he needs to sit out on Saturday.
Chelsea has found out the hard way this season that rushing players back from muscle injuries seldom ends well. Christian Pulisic and Hakim Ziyech have both missed significant amounts of time this year with similar types of injuries. Seeing as Silva returned to training less than 48 hours before kickoff against the Saints, it’d be a risky turnaround, especially when considering his age.
Ralph Hasenhuttl’s team is one of the most aggressive in the league with its pressing. Southampton’s style is similar to Thomas Tuchel’s in its movement, discipline and overall identity. The Saints’ methods paid off early on—as they sat top of the table at one point—and despite slumping recently, the Austrian manager has stuck to his way. Southampton is sixth in total team possession this season, controlling the ball 52.8 percent of the time. How does this all relate to Silva though? Simple: movement.
Southampton’s press makes it uncomfortable to play from out the back, something Tuchel’s squad tends to do quite often. The German needs three mobile centerbacks and if the anchor at the back—regardless of how great his passing skills are—is not fully healthy, it could be a nightmare against the Saints.
Southampton’s style of play isn’t the only reason Silva should be benched in this contest though.
His health potentially holding the Blues back and lessening their chances of winning is a huge part of it, but so is the upcoming run of matches. Silva is undoubtedly Chelsea’s most important defender. His adept football mind and experience on the biggest stages are invaluable in the sort of games the Blues have on the horizon. Not only is a meeting with Atletico Madrid just four days away, but Chelsea is also getting ready to take on Manchester United, Everton, Leeds and Liverpool in the coming weeks. Silva needs to be present during these games and while he may not play in all of them, it’s nice to have an emergency blanket like the Brazilian at one’s disposal.
The likelihood of a long-term, more serious injury is greater when rushing back from the type Silva has currently. He’s too valuable to be rushed back for a weekend match against a struggling Southampton squad, especially seeing as tougher tests are quickly approaching.
Silva is someone who needs to be forced to sit, he isn’t going to voluntarily be on the bench. He’s a fighter and will do anything for his team, including putting his body on the line for the greater good. While having a veteran like that is priceless, Tuchel needs to make the smart decision here and keep Silva on the bench at St Mary’s Stadium in order to prevent a long-term injury.