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Monday, April 11, 2022

Thomas Tuchel has prepared Chelsea's new John Terry for starring role against Real Madrid

  It was just after the hour mark against Southampton, with Chelsea six goals ahead and cruising to victory, that Thomas Tuchel decided t...


It was just after the hour mark against Southampton, with Chelsea six goals ahead and cruising to victory, that Thomas Tuchel decided to make his second substitution. And like the first that saw Kai Havertz replaced at the interval, it was one with Champions League quarter-final second leg against Real Madrid very much in mind.

On came Reece James, who slotted into the back three, and off came Thiago Silva . The Brazilian had very little to deal with at St Mary's – his teammates ensured the majority of the action came at the other end of the pitch. Yet given he is 37 years old, any chance for Silva to rest is almost certainly welcome. Even more so given how much football he has played this term.

Of Chelsea's outfield players, only Antonio Rudiger has featured more than Silva for the Blues. That was not expected by anyone at the start of the campaign but is a mark of how important the Brazil international is to Tuchel's side. He is the defensive leader and organiser but also a vital cog in how Chelsea build attacks through his intelligent use of the ball.

"I know how much effort he puts in to stay fit, how much effort he puts in off the pitch at home, taking care of his recovery, his sleep, his nutrition," Tuchel told Chelsea's in-house media earlier this month. "This is simply outstanding and only because of that is it possible [to be performing at such a high level late in his thirties]."

Silva has already agreed to remain at Chelsea until the end of the 2022/23 campaign, by which point he will be 38 years old. Perhaps then he will call time on his career in Europe and head back to his native Brazil. Or maybe he will continue to defy the aging process and still be able to perform at the very top level.

Former Chelsea manager – and BT Sport pundit – Glenn Hoddle wouldn't be surprised given the impact the centre-back has made during his two seasons at Stamford Bridge. He said:

"I finished at 38 years old – and I was a player/manager for four years which took a lot out of me physically and mentally – but the game becomes so much easier. It's quite incredible.

"The repetition of playing, how many times you've done everything [on the pitch], means you understand the game. So your legs may start to go but the mental side of the game is a doddle. It's like another set of curtains open and the game because easy. Of course, you'll have younger legs up against you. For someone like Thiago, he could have a flying, pacey attacker up against him. Then that can be a problem. But the game itself can become so much easier at that age.

"Thiago has been outstanding. He is an incredible example [of longevity]. Defensively, there are players who think they can catch him out but he's too experienced. With the ball, he's so calm and collected. And in a three-man defence, he is brilliant for Chelsea. I'm not sure he could play in a four [every week] as that involves being stretched out into the wide areas. But he's been brilliant and he's so important to Chelsea.

"His use of the ball is outstanding and he normally plays the pass that hurts an opponent. Whether that is a ball into the midfield to someone who is spare, a diagonal, or a killer ball. He's so calm and he'll find players that you just don't expect him to; perhaps a ball will be played forward and instead of just heading it away, he'll drop it down to a teammate and give them an extra second on the ball. That is vital at the top level.

"There's a little bit of John Terry in him in the sense he is like a magnet to the ball. Nine out of ten times when a cross comes into the penalty area, he's read it and is in the right position. He is a fantastic cog on that Chelsea machine and I don't think enough people realise just how important he is. Without him, Chelsea are a different team."

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