As all those who have paid attention to Chelsea for the past year know, there’s been a drastic change in terms of how the side plays. Apart from the attacking play and youth integration there has been one thing that’s changed more than anything else. The normally defensively elite side, now have an awful time keeping the ball out of the net.
While the cracks may have been visible last season, no one would have anticipated for Chelsea to have the defensive issues they have now.
Despite being linked to a couple of centre-backs little has happened, and that is why I shall be going over the central defenders that Chelsea have been strongly linked with, as well as which of the two I believe they should sign.
The Veteran: Thiago Silva
The links with Thiago Silva have heated up drastically over the last few weeks as the Brazilian defender approaches the end of his contract. At 35, it is clear that Silva would be a stop gap option, with most reports citing the contract length as a “1+1.” Which means a one-year-deal with the option of extending it a further year. It is well known that Thiago Silva has been one of the best defenders of the past decade or so, but, will he still cut it at 35, in a new league?
To look at Thiago Silva, it is important to first pinpoint his strengths, and weaknesses. One you can’t measure and probably his most important for Chelsea is his leadership. At times it has been clear that despite having a captain there’s no real leader at the club. It is undoubtedly that a leader can totally change a team much less a backline. Too many times the defence was unorganised and there was a lack of communication, Silva solves that immediately.
Now onto what can be measured, he only appeared in two of PSG’s four losses, all season long. Across 34 appearances in all competitions he recorded an outstanding, 95.1% pass accuracy with a total progression distance of, 18 884 yards. As well as 71% of his touches being progressive in some form.
In comparison, Virgil Van Dijk had a pass accuracy of 90.4% and a total progression distance of 28 939 in 19 more matches. Andreas Christensen, arguably our most comfortable current central defender with the ball recorded a 93% pass accuracy and a total progression distance of 10 582 across 27 appearances.
While Silva is clearly no Van Dijk, he massively surpasses Andreas, especially when looking at how often he plays the ball forwards. Too many times this season there’s been constant passing back and forth between the two defenders. A problem the Brazilian should also solve.
Sadly, Silva comes with his issues. The largest one though, is his age. If lucky, he still has two top seasons left, but the more likely, is that he’ll be great for one before declining entering a second year at The Bridge.
Thiago is a forward thinking defender whose leadership and experience could be crucial for a short while as Chelsea look for a long term replacement.
The Academy Product: Declan Rice
A name often heard in links with Chelsea all season long. Declan Rice is a centre back who was converted to a defensive midfielder. That’s important, many think it was the other way around when in reality, during his academy days he featured at the heart of the backline. Rice would be that long term replacement Chelsea are looking for but would most likely cost over 70 million pounds.
Which of course, puts the whole deal in question as Chelsea are unlikely to spend that much on another player this summer, assuming the Havertz deal goes through.
To West Ham’s point, there’s a reason they can charge such a sum for Rice. Despite his inconsistencies in his ability to read the game at times he has been the club’s best player this season.
The leadership part again is clear here as towards the end of the season he wore the armband three times and appears to be the second in line after Mark Noble. As mentioned previously we’re in desperate need of a leader and this seems to be a solution.
Aside from the intangibles, Declan has shown an incredible amount of promise and has been rated extremely highly by the likes of John Terry for a clear reason.
This season he made zero errors which even led to shots much less goals, something Liverpool midfielder Fabinho can’t relate to. Rice also completed a tackle against 33% percent of those who attempted a dribble past him, a number very similar to Fabinho and Rodri of Manchester City.
Another trait of Declan’s which impresses is his calmness and ability to create from deep, something many fans have been calling out for. This could also be a huge factor if Lampard elects to stay with the two eights and an anchor man behind in the midfield. This season alone Rice initiated attacks that led to 45 shots, with 41 of those coming from open play and 7 out of the 45 led to goals.
It is difficult to compare Declan to other centerbacks as he has played in a more holding midfield role this season for West Ham but when the greatest defender in premier league history is saying they’d make a great partnership you don’t write that off.
Either of these options would instantly boost Chelsea’s honestly, horrid backline and help put a little faith in our minds whenever an opposing team has the ball. The sensible signing in my opinion is going for Thiago Silva as a short term fix in order to better assess all options as there doesn’t seem to be a wide selection for defenders. Although I do believe that Declan and Thiago could both be brought in if all the rumours of player departures are to be believed.