While PSG’s unstoppable forward trio has grabbed all the headlines this season, a reborn Thiago Silva at the back has given the team an unbreakable anchor
Thiago Silva has been on the receiving end of an awful lot of criticism over the past few months, with some even questioning his credentials as a central defender and his ability to both guide Paris Saint Germain and be a corner-stone for Brazil’s national team.
But Silva has won back his self-esteem and given his critics a reply in the strongest of terms with his solid performance against Bayern Munich in the UEFA Champions League. The Brazilian stood toe-to-toe with Robert Lewandowski, who is considered one of the world’s finest strikers, consequently proving that the PSG man still has what it takes to play at the top level of the game.
The long-awaited Champions League clash between PSG and Bayern resulted in a big score-line, as the hosts delivered a strong message of intent to the rest of Europe, by shutting down the Germans with three goals. This convincing display would not have been possible, if not for the leadership of Thiago Silva at the heart of the back-line.
As a matter of fact, The 33-year old neutralized the number one Bavarian threat, as he did not allow Lewandowski to get into scoring positions nor find himself unmarked in the penalty area. The veteran even followed the Polish player out of the box, whenever the striker attempted to free himself from his marker, by dropping as deep as possible. Thiago was always there to harass his target, no matter where he was on the pitch.
Considering that Bayern’s attacking tactics, when in possession, essentially relied on crossing the ball to their target man, Thiago Silva taking Lewandowski out of the game was a big blow to Carlo Ancelotti’s plan. The Italian manager insisted on keeping faith in his idea, but in vain.
To put things into perspective, Silva was able to clear 14 crosses by himself, which is comfortably the highest number by any defender who took part in that match. When you neutralize the opponent’s key threat and manage to complete 90 minutes of high intensity football without committing any defensive blunders, then it is no surprise that a clean sheet is a direct consequence.
With Unai Emery having the possibility of relying on the individual brilliance of Neymar and Kylian Mbappé as well as the lethal finishing of Edinson Cavani in the final third, then it was only logical that Bayern’s slow back-line, playing too high, would struggle to prevent his trio from exploiting the bags of spaces left behind.
At the end of the day, PSG’s trio proved-out to be too much for the Bavarian giants to contain. It is expected that the goal-scorers get the most attention, but it should not be forgotten that Thiago Silva was the backbone of the Parisian side’s defensive stability. The secret of any successful side is balance, which is what Bayern have lacked. If it wasn’t for Silva guiding the defense by example, then the scoreline could have been extremely different.
In the build-up for the World Cup, Thiago Silva has once again cemented his position amongst the world’s finest centre-backs. The Brazilian, who has yet to taste the glory of a Champions League or World Cup win, will deliver this season with the hope of ending it by lifting either one of the two trophies. Or why not both? Only then will his footballing abilities be matched with a legacy that serves him due justice.