Thiago Silva’s wife Belle may have been on to something when she took to social media during Chelsea’s defeat at Wolves and called for a change. After the team’s grim experience of trying to keep up with Pedro Neto and Matheus Cunha, it can be no coincidence that Mauricio Pochettino’s side have found it easier to produce their best performances of the season without the 39-year-old in the squad. central defense. they destroyed Aston Villa last Wednesday.
It could be a sign that the end is coming sooner than Silva might have expected. But Chelsea have a trivial balancing act. They don’t plan to offer the Brazilian an extension when his contract expires at the end of the season, but they don’t want to disrespect him. Silva is one of the greatest defenders of his generation and will have a big role to play in the coming months. It is important that he leaves on good terms.
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However there is an argument that Chelsea need to start the process of signing Silva gradually. The benefits of playing two younger and quicker goalkeepers were evident when 22-year-old Benoît Badiashile and 25-year-old Axel Disasi neutralized Ollie Watkins during the fourth-round win over Villa The FA Cup. Chelsea, who had conceded eight goals in their previous two games, looked much more balanced thanks to Pochettino’s introduction of more mobility at the back at Villa Park.
It was a rare sight of Chelsea playing like Pochettino’s team. They were aggressive in the 50-50 duels and played through Villa. They covered the spaces and cut the gap between their defense and midfield. The patterns were great when they attacked. Why change anything now?
The immediate answer, of course, is that a groin injury could keep Badashile out when Chelsea visit Crystal Palace on Monday. Looking ahead, however, it is clear that Silva’s status as a regular starter is under threat. It goes without saying that Chelsea would be better off if Silva stepped back and spent more time on the bench.
That is not to say that there is no value in having the veteran in the squad. Bringing him on would be a bonus as Chelsea look to see out games, not to mention young defenders such as Badashile, Disasi and Levi Colwill training with a player of Silva’s experience.
That aside, though, there are signs that Silva’s age is catching up with him. He is still capable of excelling in a low block but struggles when exposed to speed.
Perhaps this is straying into terrible territory given Silva’s reputation with supporters. Pochettino, who has yet to build a rapport with the crowd, needs to be careful when talking about the centre-back. It wouldn’t do much to make a drama out of Belle Silva’s tweet.
However, Pochettino’s political dynamic cannot fool Neto as he tore past Silva before creating Wolves’ third goal last weekend. There is no point in arguing that Silva should not have been left in that situation, an analysis that ignores the disadvantages of Chelsea adjusting their system to protect one player.
The thinking needs to change. When Thomas Tuchel took over at Chelsea three years ago, he focused on defending against Silva’s lack of pace. The Germans prioritized defensive stability and won the Champions League with a dominant 3-4-2-1 system.
Tuchel never felt comfortable using Silva in a back four, especially as he also had to account for Jorginho’s lack of strength in midfield. He feared teams would go through Chelsea if they opened up and Graham Potter faced a similar dilemma when he replaced Tuchel last season. The attempt to stick to Silva’s desire to play in the back four did not work. It would not have been lost on Potter that the best performance of his Chelsea reign – a comeback against Borussia Dortmund in the last 16 of the Champions League – came when an injury to Silva allowed him to switch to a back three.
Pochettino is something to think about. He is an attacking manager who has looked between 4-3-3 and 4-2-3-1 this season, but within Chelsea it is felt that Silva’s presence involves too many tactical compromises. If he plays as a left center back he will have an impact on the left back position. Is it any surprise that Wolves focused many of their attacks down the flank of Ben Chilwell last weekend? Or that Chilwell, an adventurous goalkeeper, looked more comfortable with Badashile against Silva against Villa?
Probably not. The question for Pochettino, however, is how to tackle the situation. Earlier this season there were questions in the dressing room about Silva being relinquished the captaincy. Teammates spoke of a lack of respect. The point, however, is that Silva’s English is limited and he is not particularly vocal on the training pitch.
Admittedly, it would still be a huge call not to start Silva when Chelsea face Liverpool in the Carabao Cup final this month. Badashile and Disasi undoubtedly have potential and are France internationals but have lacked consistency since joining Monaco. For Pochettino, the concern will be that Chelsea are too erratic without Silva. Colwill, 20, is learning and Wesley Fofana, 23, is out for the season. It was common to see Silva walking to the touchline to have passionate conversations with Pochettino when a raw team lost control.
Also there is a sense of Silva’s aura fading. In Badashile, Colwill, Disasi and Fofana, Chelsea have four defenders who could be at the club for years. It may be time for Pochettino to move Silva aside and let the next generation take over.