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Chelsea must unleash Thiago Silva against Fulham

Anything other than victory against Fulham on Thursday night is a grave cause for concern for Chelsea manager Graham Potter as the tactician sets his sights on reclaiming a place among the European competitors of the Premier League.

Indeed, the Blues have run off course this term, and now occupy the tenth-placed role in the league following a detrimental run of form that has left the west London giants ten points adrift of Manchester United in fourth place.

Succeeding at London rivals Fulham’s home ground of Craven Cottage would be a stellar step in the right direction, with the newly-promoted outfit exceeding expectations this season and currently perching in seventh place in the division.

Should Potter taste defeat, the Cottagers would soar six points above the weathered Blues, albeit having played a game extra, whereas victory would restore parity and open the door for a return to European contention.

Despite signing from Napoli for £33m in the summer, colossus Kalidou Koulibaly has failed to hit the ground running at Stamford Bridge. Indeed, his performance in the FA Cup thrashing against City typified that, with the Senegalese titan being outshone by his less experienced teammates.

He is a minnow in terms of influence when compared to one other senior centre-back, who is defying expectations. That player, still unquestionably imperative in the fight against further issues, is the veteran centre-back Thiago Silva, who is still a beacon of strength and leadership despite sitting firmly in the twilight phase of his professional career at 37 years old.

Having made 102 outings since arriving from Paris Saint-Germain on a free transfer in 2020, Silva has often provided the defensive resilience required to secure victory, notably playing a central role in his club’s 2020/21 Champions League triumph, recording a solid average rating of 6.97 en-route to glory.

Is Thiago Silva still Chelsea's best defender?

Yes

Yes

No

No

This season, making 20 appearances across all competitions, the 113-cap Brazilian veteran has maintained his impressive level of performance despite his club’s troubles, averaging an exceptional rating of 7.31 in the Premier League.

His robust presence, making 1.6 tackles, 1.5 interceptions and 4.2 clearances per fixture, have been imperative in stopping the backline from crumbling – and with 0.5 shots per match, his direct offensive presence adds another dimension.

And ranking within the top 2% of defenders in Europe’s top five leagues over the past year for passes attempted, the top 4% for passes completed and the top 17% for progressive passes, as per FBref, Silva can serve as the creative force from the back to pump life into the offensive third of the pitch, starting transitions from the back in a bid to bypass the cohesive Fulham outfit.

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Cesc Fabregas in action for Chelsea

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It’s also worth noting that the £110k-per-week earner’s towering presence will be important in quelling the threat of the prolific Aleksandar Mitrovic, who has scored 11 goals in 15 games after seismically netting 43 times in the EFL Championship last season.

As per Whoscored, Silva has won a career average of 2.0 aerials per match, while the Serbian striker has displayed his towering presence up front with a ratio of 3.7 – nullifying this element of the game, both as a direct threat and for his hold-up play, is paramount.

Lauded as a “Rolls-Royce” by Chelsea icon Joe Cole, Silva truly is one of the great defenders of his generation, and despite his numbered years at top level, he can continue to play a definitive role in Chelsea’s resurgence over the latter period of the 22/23 campaign, and that starts with returning to winning ways against Fulham.