Ahead of our Premier League trip to Norwich City this evening, Thiago Silva has been discussing factors behind his impressive longevity, as well as outlining the importance of ‘exceptional’ N’Golo Kante…
Only two outfielders have played more minutes than the Brazilian for Chelsea this season, with the veteran defender on course for over 50 appearances for club and country. At the same time, he has helped us keep six clean sheets in his last seven outings, inspiring a resurgence in form and defensive resilience.
Now in his second campaign at Stamford Bridge, the 36-year-old is playing as well as ever, something he never doubted of himself despite making the switch to England in the twilight of a gloried career.
‘Practically everyone who knows me is aware how much work I put in to perform well, as I’ve been doing, and the sacrifices I make,’ he said. ‘Things are worth it when you do it with passion, love and dedication.
‘So many people had their doubts if I’d be able to play to the same standard here as I did at PSG but I never had any doubts of how I’d perform for the club. I’ve kept up my standard here at Chelsea, bearing in mind it’s the best league in the world.’
After finally getting his hands on the Champions League last term in Porto, Thiago Silva’s hunger has been renewed. His ambition to play for Brazil at the World Cup in Qatar later this year still burns strong, while his recent performances at the heart of the Chelsea back three have oozed class and composure.
Most notably, the defender’s reading of the game has been impressive, allowing him to operate a step ahead of opposition forwards, an attribute he believes has been developed after years spent playing at the highest level in Italy, France and on the international stage.
‘I’m not sure how to quantify it but I think that the experience gained over your career means that you can prepare yourself better and better,’ he explained.
‘If when I was 20 I had the same level of experience I do today, I’d be a completely different player, combined with a level of strength and pace much greater than I have today.
‘You get experience over time, meaning that you can improve as a person and it gives you this understanding on how to play better.’
What makes life easier at the back for Thiago Silva is the relentless work in midfield from team-mates like Kante hassling and harrying the opposition in possession. He feels this is an underestimated part of the game, work that goes largely unnoticed by many but makes a big difference for defenders like him.
‘He’s exceptional, a player who gives the team the chance to win the ball back more and with greater ease,’ he stated about the Frenchman.
‘That’s because the pressure he puts on the player in possession forces the player to rush his decision-making. Maybe they’ll play a long ball which is misplaced so at the back I can win the ball.
‘To be honest, people don’t really analyse players who pressure people in possession but these kinds of players are fantastic, especially for me playing behind and theoretically ready to cover.
‘I run more from one side to the other, even as part of a back three, but often I win the ball back because these players put good pressure on the opponent in possession.’
Norwich are the league’s bottom side and were beaten 7-0 earlier in the season at Stamford Bridge. However, Thiago Silva is adamant league position and points matter little when preparing for a game in the Premier League.
‘It’s not like we motivate ourselves for specific opponents,’ he added. ‘Regardless of who we face, we’re motivated because we’re representing Chelsea, fighting to win trophies and win games.
‘We don’t look at our opponents to see how many points they’ve got or where they are in the league. Regardless of whether we’re playing them or Liverpool or Manchester City, we always think about working to win games. That’s our motivation and the approach we need to take.
‘It was the same for the FA Cup game recently [against Luton Town]. We faced a second-tier side who caused us a lot of problems so we don’t judge our opponents based on where they are in the league.’