A certain Brazilian stopper has been the scapegoat for PSG’s humiliating Champions League defeat to Barcelona, but Thiago Silva is an innocent man
Thiago Silva has been the centre of attention for the French press, following Paris Saint Germain’s historical 6-1 humiliation against FC Barcelona, in the Champions League on March 8. Likewise, in Brazil, several voices are already suggesting that former national team coach Carlos Dunga was right when he dropped him from the squad. But does the Parisian team-captain deserve to be pointed-out as the main culprit, or is he being unfairly scapegoated?
The doubters in Silva are mainly suggesting that he has a weak mentality under pressure, and has lacked leadership – therefore, PSG lost in such an ugly way. But the question is, what do they exactly mean by leadership?
It is easy to single-out the team’s captain for his lack of leadership, but isn’t the team supposed to be full of grown professionals? As a matter of fact, Thiago did not commit any single mistake in all the goals PSG conceded. Let us analyze them one by one:
1st goal: Rafinha sends a cross inside the penalty box. Marquinhos clears the ball inches backwards, Marco Verratti and Lionel Messi both fail to get a touch to it. Meanwhile, Kevin Trapp heads towards the ball in order to catch, then changes his opinion and goes backwards, before deciding to go out again – all in the verge of few seconds. Suarez takes advantage of the goalkeeper’s hesitation and taps the ball in with a header.
2nd goal: Neymar launches Andres Iniesta with a wonderful through ball. Marquinhos reaches the ball first but hesitates whether to control it or clear it – Iniesta eventually manages to play a backheel, which fooled Layvin Kurzawa who deflected it right into his team’s goal.
3rd goal: Thomas Meunier fouls Neymar and the referee signals a penalty. Messi slots the ball home.
4th goal: Di Maria fouls Neymar in a dangerous area. The Brazil international steps up for the free kick, and beats Trapp with an amazing effort.
5th goal: Marquinhos fouls Suarez inside the penalty box and the referee signals a penalty. Neymar successfully converts it.
6th goal: Neymar sends a long ball inside the penalty box. Aurier loses his marker Sergi Roberto, who eventually scores the goal which decided the whole tie. Thiago Silva was marking Messi during that moment, and did not lose his man.
Back to my initial question, what defines ‘leadership’ for the ones doubting Thiago Silva’s? Was he supposed to possess the souls of Trapp, Meunier, Marquinhos, Kurzawa, Di Maria etc, and prevent them from committing deadly mistakes?
The former Brazil captain did not commit any blunder during the whole game, so it does not seem fair to come up with conclusions doubting his quality. PSG lost 6-1, so of course, the center back is automatically the culprit just because of the score-line.
The truth is that Unai Emery’s tactics let him down more than Thiago Silva did. A captain cannot lead when the team is parking the bus instead of pressing the opponent higher-up the pitch. This tactic helped Barcelona surround PSG in their own penalty area during the flow of the game, and when you are put under such high pressure, it is only a matter of time before individual mistakes start showing up – especially as this was the first time the French club had played in such a defensive system during the whole season.
The players were used to playing possession football so found it difficult to play without the ball, at such high intensity against a deadly attack like Barcelona’s, all of a sudden. And guess what? Yet again, there was nothing Thiago Silva could change – he did not commit any defensive mistake, for all he could do as a center back.
I am not of course suggesting by any means, that he had a good game. But it is common sense that when a team loses by such a high score-line, responsibility and criticism have to be equally shared. We cannot draw conclusions that all of PSG’s players are overrated just because they lost 6-1. For in the end, they remain one of the finest sides in European football – let’s not forget that rare are the teams to have managed to beat Barcelona by four goals, over the past decade.
In terms of defensive quality, Thiago Silva remains Brazil’s best defender and is in contention for a World Cup spot in Russia, come next year. The media loves drawing reactionary conclusions and tends to misinterpret what happened during games, but Silva has overcome so many obstacles in the past, and this one will be no different. Will the ball-playing center back feature in the Seleção’s next two games against Uruguay and Paraguay? That answer belongs to Tite.