I think it is safe to say Frank Lampard’s Chelsea have been busy in the transfer market. Ziyech, Werner, Chilwell, Sarr and Thiago Silva have all been snapped up by Lampard as he attempts to get a squad together capable of challenging for the Premier League.
Central defence is clearly a concern for the team, given they conceded 54 goals last season – and Chelsea have moved quickly to sign Brazilian legend Thiago Silva from PSG following their Champions League Final defeat.
However, our question is this: Surely there was a better option than the ageing defender that Lampard could have signed. What if there was a player hiding in Ligue 2, for example, that matched Silva’s metrics last season and could have been signed for a fraction of the price (yes, we know Silva is a free transfer but the total package to bring him to Stamford Bridge can hardly be classed as free…)
So, using we asked our computer whether such a player does exist in Ligue 2. Why Ligue 2? It’s been a great hunting ground for clubs like Brentford and Leicester in recent seasons uncovering the likes of Benrahma and Mahrez – so could there be a future great central defender lurking in the French second tier?
For context; our computer ran the numbers and was able to give us the top three matches to Thiago Silva based on the overall performance metrics last season. Please note, we are not saying that these players are better players (yet) than the ex-PSG man – we are just demonstrating that there are players with incredibly similar outputs playing in the French 2nd tier that could do a very good job for a fraction of the price.
Before we get into the three players on our shortlist, let’s just remind ourselves of what our friends at Wyscout say about Thiago Silva.
Our #3 pick
Le Havre have a fine reputation of producing top talents who go on to play at a higher level and it is fair to say Ersoy could be another.
Defensively, you can see that TS out-performed Ursoy last season but the young Turk was above league average for winning his aerial battles.
These are numbers that you like to see when you want a ball-playing central defender. Take into account Ursoy plays an above-average amount of longer passes but then note his accuracy levels.
Compared to the next player on the list, Ursoy doesn’t pose a great deal of a goal threat – the computer has highlighted him as a match for TS on the overall game. Had we focused purely on the attacking outputs, Ursoy would not figure.
See Ursoy in action here:
Our #2 pick
Our third pick from Ligue 2 is Emmanuel Ntim from Valenciennes.
Let’s see how he matches up to Thiago Silva in some key areas.
As you can see, Ntim already seems to have a more rounded defensive game than Thiago Silva – based off the evidence of last season. The fact that Ntim is ‘busier’ than Thiago Silva will come down to the fact that one was playing for PSG and defending isn’t always necessary for them in Ligue 1 – and we can clearly see that TS wins a high percentage of duels he actually has to engage in. But, you cannot deny that Etim looks like a commanding presence at the back.
When we look at the on-the-ball quality, we can see that Etim certainly plays more direct than TS – again, we can put this down to the respective tactics employed at their clubs. Etim has work to do on his accuracy, but given the length of his passes it is not unexpected that he has a lower success rate. What we like about Etim here is his ability to make progressive runs from the back.
In terms of being an attacking force, you can see here that Etim is a very interesting prospect. Given his background of playing as a defensive midfielder, you can see that he is very comfortable on the attacking side of the game outperforming TS in all areas.
Check out Etim in action here:
Our #1 pick
Loic Bade of Lens is our number one pick – tall, strong and progressive.
We also like Bade for this cool reason;
In terms of matching Chelsea’s playing style under Lampard to teams in Ligue 2, you can see that Bade’s current club Lens are the second-closest match – that could suggest that he would be able to adopt Lampard’s style of player quicker as he is already playing in a similar style. When we ran that in Ligue 1, PSG were the third closest match – running both leagues together, Lens were 8th.
Again, Bade is dominant in the air winning a high percentage of his aerial duels – however, he does win a lower than average amount of his total defensive duels.
What stands out for Bade here is the number of progressive runs he makes from the back. We know this is something Lampard likes to see.
Again, Bade stands out in the attacking sense – dribbles and key passes are high and he has a better xG than Thiago Silva and, for direct comparison, Etim.
Get to know Loic more here:
So there you have it – three alternatives that Chelsea could have considered instead of splashing the free-agent cash on Thiago Silva.
Are we saying that these players are the perfect players? Not at all. We’re not even saying these are the players we would have picked out ourselves if we had crunched the numbers manually and then performed the traditional scouting eye test.
But, the computer algorithm picked these guys out so they could certainly be names to scribble down and see if they pop up elsewhere in the next year or so.crea
Could these players be a great fit for an ambitious Championship club or many of the Premier League sides? 100% – they are affordable to pretty much all of them. For context, Maxence Lacroix was also on our shortlist but considering he has just moved from Sochaux to Wolfsberg for €5m, we didn’t feel it made sense to include him but if you look at his transfer fee you can see that there is value to be had with this shortlist of players.