A goal and a clean sheet will always represent a good night’s work for a defender but there was so much more about Thiago Silva’s performance against West Ham that pleased his boss Frank Lampard…
The veteran centre-back is still adapting to the rigours of English football and is about to experience his first frantic festive period, having spent most of his career playing in leagues that are able to afford the players a welcome winter break.
However, after signing from Paris Saint-Germain in the summer, the Brazilian has settled in almost seamlessly and undoubtedly contributed to a stark contrast in our defensive performance. In the first 22 games of this campaign in all competitions, the Blues have conceded 17 goals, a tally that was almost twice as high at 33 last term.
In the Premier League, only two teams have conceded less than our 14 goals and only one has kept more than our six clean sheets. The evidence behind those numbers was clear for all to see on Monday night at Stamford Bridge as the hosts defended the 18-yard box with bravery and resolve, holding on to a slender lead for 70 minutes before Tammy Abraham’s late brace sealed the points.
Thiago Silva was at the heart of those efforts, leading by example with actions and words, reading the danger and putting his body on the line to keep the ball away from Edouard Mendy’s goal. It was also his bullet header at the other end that put us 1-0 up early on as he made perfect, powerful contact to turn in Mason Mount's corner.
At 36 years of age, he is the third oldest outfielder to feature in the Premier League this season but, according to Lampard, he still looks like a man in his prime – different from how the Chelsea head coach felt in his final playing days in England.
‘I remember playing in the Premier League at 36 and I wasn’t playing like Thiago is!’ admitted Lampard. ‘I was in and out of the team, I couldn’t play week-in, week-out because I could feel it at that stage in my career.
‘I was a bit tentative with bringing Thiago here on that front, as I knew he was a fantastic player but I wasn’t sure how he would take to the demands of the Premier League.
'He’s been fantastic and maybe I shouldn’t have been surprised because from working with him every day you see up close just how much he puts in.
‘He prepares so well, he’s so dedicated, his reading of the game is fantastic and his desire to win headers and compete with anyone is superb. He’s really studious and I think it’s clear he will go on and become a manager if he wants to be. He’s been a great addition for us both on and off the pitch.’
Lampard was particularly pleased with his team’s character against West Ham, especially after back-to-back defeats and a feeling of increasing pressure around the group. He expects plenty more tests like that in the coming months but believes each one passed represents an important milestone for his young, developing squad.
‘This season is looking different to other seasons for many reasons and it’s definitely going to throw spells at teams at different points,’ added the boss. 'It’s hard. There’s a lot of expectations at this club and you get a few challenges when all of a sudden you lose a few games.
‘I have to be the one that drives it. I felt there was a bit of tension going into this game and in training over the past few days, in a good way. The players have to fight through spells like this and show a bit of graft, which we did. It was a really good result for us.’