Football Features

Will letting “priceless” Thiago Silva leave be a big mistake for Chelsea?

By Harry Edwards

Published: 15:39, 30 April 2024

Chelsea have been accused of making a mistake in allowing Thiago Silva to leave the club this summer by former England midfielder Owen Hargreaves.

After four years at Chelsea, Silva has announced that he will leave the club at the end of the season. The Brazilian has made over 150 appearances for Chelsea during his time at the club, winning the Champions League in his first season and later adding the Club World Cup.

So far this season, Silva has made 34 appearances across all competitions but in recent weeks he became something of a scapegoat among fans as the Blues struggled defensively. In the Premier League, Chelsea have kept just two clean sheets in their past 13 matches since the start of 2024.

Silva has played in eight of those matches, and did start each of their games with clean sheets, against Fulham and Everton. After putting in a solid performance alongside Trevoh Chalobah against Everton, both Silva and the Englishman were dropped from the starting XI to face Arsenal, with Chelsea going on to lose 5-0.

The Brazilian was back in the Chelsea defence for their 2-2 draw with Aston Villa at the weekend and, on Monday, Silva announced his imminent departure.

“Chelsea means a lot to me. I came here with the intention of only staying for a year and it ended up being four years. Not just for me but for my family, too,” he said in his statement.

“I think in everything I did here over the four years, I always gave my all. But, unfortunately, everything has a start, a middle and an end. That doesn’t mean that this is a definitive end. I hope to leave the door open so that in the near future I can return, albeit in another role here.

“But…it’s an indescribable love. I can only say thank you.”

Silva is one of seven players this season to have amassed more than 2,000 minutes in the Premier League for Chelsea, with only Axel Disasi managing more for the Blues among centre-backs — though the Frenchman has split his playing time this season at right-back. In his time on the pitch, Silva has averaged 3.14 possessions won in the defensive third, the second-most among Chelsea defenders.

Silva does lead the way for clearances per 90 minutes, averaging 4.81 per 90 minutes, as well as sitting second for headed clearances with 2,39 per 90. The Brazilian’s aerial ability is one of his strengths, despite being 5 ft 11 — one of the smaller players in the Chelsea first-team.

The 39-year-old has also been key to Chelsea’s passing game this season. He has completed 76.72 passes per 90 minutes, again the second-most among Blues centre-backs. But he boasts the best passing accuracy, completing 94.75% of his attempted passes. He has also completed on average 6.04 final third passes completed and 3.58 long passes completed, the latter a high among Chelsea centre-backs.

Silva’s future has been in doubt for a while, with reports of him hoping to return to Brazil to finish his career. But Hargreaves thinks having a player like Silva in the dressing room is ‘priceless’ for a club like Chelsea right now.

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“Chelsea should have kept him on. I think they should have kept him,” he told Premier League Productions.

“The reason why they are struggling this season is because they have no leaders, no experienced players.

“They need more of them, not less. You don’t let the guy go who’s won the Champions League and been one of the best centre-backs of all time. He could have stayed to mentor all those brilliant young centre-backs they have, like Colwill, Badiashile and Disasi.

“Having players like Thiago Silva in the dressing room is priceless. A guy like Thiago, who has been there and done it, he doesn’t fold in the big moments.

“He can still play. I think he’ll go back to Brazil and play there. It’s so important to have mentors when you come through – that guy would be the best mentor ever.”

Experience is often cited as one of Chelsea’s biggest problems, and at different points this season the Blues’ defenders have all struggled. Silva (four), Benoit Badiashile, Disasi (both two), Ben Chilwell, Malo Gusto and Reece James (all one) have all made errors leading to shots this season. Silva and Badiashile have both made errors leading to goals.

When comparing Silva to his centre-back teammates, there are some strengths spread across the team. Badiashile comes out on top for tackles made, interceptions, blocks and recoveries, though he has played under 1,000 minutes so there’s a slightly smaller sample size.

Disasi comes out on top for aerial duel success rate, while Chalobah leads for ground duel success rate. But Silva brings the passing accuracy and clearances. Levi Colwill hasn’t been included in this particular comparison, playing the large majority of his matches this season at left-back.