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Was it too soon to give Thiago Silva the start and the armband?

On Thiago Silva’s Premier League debut with Chelsea, against West Bromwich Albion


Chelsea managed to rescue a point at the Hawthorns against newly promoted side West Bromwich Albion. Any sense of optimism gained with a three goal comeback earned in the last 45 minutes is lessened by the knowledge that the first 45 minutes resulted in the shocking deficit in the first place.

Individual mistakes and lapses in focus combined to form devastating defensive mistakes. In what seems to be a common theme under the Frank Lampard regime, another error-strewn display from key defensive personnel and set-piece defending led to unnecessary conceded goals.

Chief among those egregious errors was Thiago Silva’s poor first touch, which allowed West Brom’s Callum Robinson to run free on goal. Silva was signed only a few weeks ago to be the missing piece to the team’s defense. His role in the team was to be a leader on and off the pitch.

Asked before the match what Thiago Silva would bring to the lineup, Frank Lampard advocated that the 36-year-old’s presence in the backline alone would, in essence, lead by example.

“Experience, quality, leadership. We have had Azpi as our captain but with Azpi not starting today, Thiago takes the armband with his presence. He’s not going to ... sticking the language in that sense but it doesn’t matter with him. He does it through his presence, his actions and how he is with people around him. He’s been a winner throughout his career so I want to see that with us.”

-Frank Lampard, source: Football.London

Lampard’s insistence to start Thiago Silva after his 60 minute midweek outing and select him as captain was certainly a gambit. (Ed.note: the armband would’ve most likely gone to N’Golo Kanté, as it had before in the absences of César Azpilicueta and Jorginho, and the departure of Willian.)

Despite the hyperbolic words of praise for his new central defender, Lampard’s selection did not pan out quite the way he would’ve hoped.

Communication on the football pitch is paramount, especially in defense. Thiago Silva’s command of the English language is at a beginner level at the moment. According to the man himself, he can speak Italian, French, Spanish and Portuguese to varying degrees.

Lampard shrugged off such concerns, and he could perhaps be mostly correct that any such point is rather overblown.

However, Silva’s partnership with Andreas Christensen and not Kurt Zouma, who speaks French, was a point of contention when the lineups were announced. Rewatching Thiago Silva’s mistake, which led to West Brom’s (and Callum Robinson’s) second goal, it is hard not to wonder whether better communication with Mateo Kovačić and Andreas Christensen could have led a more positive outcome.

“Thiago Silva is going to be fantastic for us. He has been incredible in his career and absolutely, I will not look at him. I can talk about the mistakes, they are clear and I am open and honest about that. We are a team but we have to react around that and, to be fair, the team did in the second half.

But, there is nothing on Thiago, I am sure he will stand up and say it was a mistake. But other than that, I thought he was pretty faultless in the game. That’s his first Premier League game done and in the bank. We will get a lot more from him as well especially as he gets fitter and as the whole squad get fitter.”

-Frank Lampard, source: Football.London

Was Lampard’s selection of Thiago Silva for tonight’s match wrong? The pessimist in me will point to his unimpressive defensive metrics on the match. If Lampard expected Thiago Silva to lead by example, he would’ve surely hoped it would have been to a much more positive benefit.

Lampard has been keen to point to match fitness and injuries as current obstacles his team selections face. Thiago Silva has barely had a week of training with the team, and his only meaningful minutes of match action came a few days ago against second division strugglers Barnsley.

It is a bit of a head scratcher why Fikayo Tomori, who also had a strong showing last time out, or Kurt Zouma, who was curiously absent entirely from the match-day squad, were not selected instead.

The optimist in me will point out that Thiago Silva should improve upon today’s disaster-class whenever he is picked again. His experience and track record suggest that he’s not the type of player to consistently get the fundamentals wrong.

At the end of the day, what’s done is done. Thiago Silva alone was not responsible for West Brom’s three goals... just one (though one that sent Chelsea into a tailspin for the rest of the half).

With time and more work, Thiago Silva’s influence should grow and become more positive. The hope is that this happens sooner rather than later.

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