Analysis

What can Thiago Silva bring to the Blues? A tactical view

Experience and a track record for winning trophies are some of the answers to the question above, but for a more detailed look at our freshly signed central defender’s play, and how he might influence his new team, we turn to pundit and former Chelsea player Pat Nevin…

The arrival of a new world-class defender is something many Chelsea fans have been wanting for quite some time. Halfway through last season however, the name Thiago Silva would not have been considered by most Blues as the man who would turn up at Stamford Bridge.

Clearly this is nothing to do with any lack of ability from him or bad feeling from us, but this is one of the great defenders of his generation and few expected him to be prised away from PSG.

Read: Thiago Silva - his numbers

Most Chelsea fans will know Thiago Silva well from not only his appearances for PSG where he led his side all the way to this season’s Champions League final, but also from all the recent previous meetings we have had with the French giants in London and in Paris. He has played against us six times and annoyingly he only lost one game, not a bad record.

What is he like as a player though and what does he bring to Chelsea? Well how long have you got?

In brief he is an intelligent defender, he has always had pace, he reads the game well, is competitive and is a leader, possibly even more by example than by what he says on field. He is an organiser and rarely seems to get carried away in stressful situations, not only controlling himself but also others around him. His partnership with David Luiz for example was exceptional for PSG and for Brazil.

The classic case was the 2014 World Cup held in his home country. The Selecao were cruising towards the Maracana and the final with David Luiz and Thiago Silva in place at the back. I was there in the country covering a host of games and the nation was off the scale in excitement and expectation. In the quarter-final, both centre-backs scored in the 2-1 win vs Colombia then disaster struck, Thiago Silva was forced to miss the upcoming semi-final after a booking.

While everyone bemoaned the fact that Neymar was also not available, he wasn’t the most important one. A 7-1 defeat to Germany in the semi underlined the importance of the skipper. David and the rest looked lost without him and a country mourned their lowest depths in football history. Most of it in reality was down to Thiago Silva being unavailable, he was that important.

Sometimes you only realise what you have when it is no longer there. I was in the stadium on another occasion when our new signing will have been distraught. Two years ago, when Manchester United stunned PSG with a 3-1 away win in Paris to knock them out with a scratch side, it was one of the most incredible and to some degree, unfair games I have ever been at.

PSG dominated and if that game was played another 1000 times, PSG would win every time at a canter. So, afterwards while Ole Gunner Solksjaer was basking in the glory and looking forward to getting the contract as United manager on the strength of this one, ludicrous result, I was thinking just how much PSG and Thiago Silva had dominated. Have a look at the pass completion rate from Thiago Silva in this game.

That is complete control from a defender and this sort of play is very much a huge part of his game.

What about when he is up against some serious pressure, does he perform as well? In the Champions League final this season Bayern Munich put huge amounts of pressure on the ball high up the field and had plenty of turnovers because of that closing down, but not against Thiago Silva. Under pressure he played and passed from the back like it was a training game.

He has been the second top in terms of number of passes at PSG for the past two seasons and had an accuracy rate hovering around 90 per cent, so the lad can play a bit! There is another statistic that is quite phenomenal, and it involves his fouls committed in the Champions League. Because he is such a good defender he tries not to get himself into situations where he has to make desperate lunges, he reads danger brilliantly, but in these days of referees whistling every time a gust of wind passes some players, surely he must have given away plenty of free-kicks. Well not exactly. In nine high-pressure games in the Champions League, OPTA have him giving away the grand total of four fouls! That is extraordinary for any player, but a centre-back at that level?

Hidden in that previous statement is a story about the big fat elephant in the room. Let us be up front about this, Thiago is certainly not going to qualify as one of Chelsea’s many bright ‘young’ things. Soon to be 36 years of age, he is not going to be with us long term and some will be asking about whether or not he can still do it at this level. The line about nine games in the Champions League should give a clue as to the standard he has maintained up until now. Only Kimpembe and Bernat played more games (10) in the Champions League this season for PSG.

There is not even the slightest question over his quality but maybe his appearances record in the last two seasons might underline why Frank Lampard and the club felt it is still the right call. Last season he played 35 games and the one before that 39. If he plays anything like that number for Chelsea in important matches in this campaign, it will be a great return for us and for those playing around him.

It is hard to imagine any of our other centre-backs not improving while playing beside one of the great defenders of his era. We were controlling large parts of the play in most games last season. That should be even more pronounced every time Thiago Silva pulls on a Chelsea shirt.


Read: What can Ben Chilwell bring to the Blues? A tactical view
 

MORE FROM CHELSEA