Thiago Silva doesn’t get the credit he deserves at Chelsea
Chelsea’s owners are paying for a scattergun approach since taking over from Roman Abramovich, with £600m spent on players since last summer, and after defeat to Real Madrid in the Champions League last week, nothing to show for it.
While every single player they have brought in has undoubted individual quality, the lack of thought about where they would fit into the side has been evident throughout the campaign. For one thing, their lack of goals makes it scarcely believable that they didn’t sign a proven, elite striker at the peak of their powers.
There is something called ‘the striker’s curse’ at Chelsea, because many of their attacking signings have flopped, most notably Andriy Shevchenko and Fernando Torres, who could both claim to be the best in the world at the time they arrived. But the signing of Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang arguably sums up the bizarre nature of their overall policy; he joined on the say-so of former manager Thomas Tuchel, who worked with him at Borussia Dortmund. Tuchel was sacked merely a few days later, and now Frank Lampard, following on from Graham Potter, has an expensive and ageing player on the books he can’t get use out of.
And yet, even more astonishingly, despite all the money spent, the best player Chelsea have was already at the club and cost them nothing in transfer fees.
When Thiago Silva arrived in the summer of 2020 during Lampard’s first spell in charge, a few eyebrows were raised. He was departing Paris Saint-Germain as captain, having spent eight incredible years in France, but at 36, there were questions about whether he could handle the rigours of Premier League football, and maintain such a high level of performance. If he could, why were PSG letting him go?
Lampard and Chelsea saw any risk as minimal and decided to jump at the chance to sign him. That has paid off incredibly; his pace isn’t what it was, but there aren’t many better defenders in possession or when it comes to game intelligence. As for leadership, well, that was never in doubt, but the benefits are evident. Even two years on, at 38, the world class defender bleeds through. Long-term, unfortunately for the Blues, he is not a pillar they can rely on. But with young defenders such as Wesley Fofana and Benoit Badiashile expected to grow in stature at Stamford Bridge, there is nobody greater from whom they could learn.
Chelsea are beginning to drift; just getting to the end of this season and resetting is no excuse for the lack of accountability. There aren’t many people at Chelsea with a voice worth listening to than Silva, and after that loss to Real Madrid, he laid out a damning assessment of where this season has gone so terribly wrong.
He bemoaned “indecision” within the club and revealed that reports the dressing room wasn’t big enough for the influx of players were in fact true.
“The manager can only pick 11 from 30-something. That’s tough,” said Silva.
“There is always going to be someone upset because not everyone can play.
“We had to increase the size of the changing rooms because it didn’t fit the size of the team.
It’s a difficult moment for the club, with a lot of indecision,” added 38-year-old Silva.
“A positive point is that there are amazing players within the squad, but on the other hand there is always players that are going to be unhappy.
“We need to stop and put a strategy in place, otherwise next season we could make the same mistakes.”
A voice of reason is what Chelsea need. Silva’s impact has gone increasingly under the radar, but his presence has only grown in importance, too.
Silva has been one of the world’s most elite defenders this century, from his days at AC Milan to PSG and now at Chelsea. But being underrated is not new to him; he really deserves more recognition.
It is not an understatement to say he is Chelsea’s most important player even now, despite all the money spent. Damning that may be, but they are extremely fortunate to have him and need to keep him as long as possible.