As much as we would love to see it, the days of centre-backs snapping opposition forwards in half at any given opportunity on turgid, muddy pitches are long gone.
Indeed, that variety of no-nonsense, tough-tackling, [insert other cliché] centre-back is a dying breed altogether, and that has negatively affected Chelsea in particular in recent seasons - a club where success has traditionally been built upon a fearsome central defensive partnership.
In short, the fear factor has gone - last seen when Gary Cahill and John Terry were patrolling the first third of the Stamford Bridge turf (back when José Mourinho could actually do good) in the successful 2014/15 campaign. Roll it back further and you arrive at the partnership that was the foundation for the Blues' success in the modern era; Terry x Ricardo Carvalho.
A pair of horrible bastards, one of whom was embroiled in more than one scandal (sometimes relating to his own teammates) and still managed to keep the captaincy and place in the starting lineup week in, week out. Wayne Bridge might disagree, but it's tough to argue with a trophy haul of three Premier League titles, three FA Cups and two League Cups during their time side by side in the heart of the Chelsea defence.
Possible off-field discretions aside, Terry and Carvalho were a pair any striker would hate to play against, getting into you, likely giving you lip outmuscling you AND outthinking you. On their day they were unassailable; both good with the ball at the feet and somehow still hard as nails.
Hurtle even further back through time to Chelsea's surprise first league title in 1955 and you will find another hard-as-nails defensive duo anchoring the side; Ron Greenwood and John Harris. Read a biography of either man and you will inevitably come across the term 'tough-tackling'; in fact, it features in the fourth paragraph of Harris' Wikipedia entry. Ron and John - not a pair to f*** with.
However, in 2020 that brand of defender is well out of vogue. Now, graceful, tall, ball-playing central defenders are all the rage - a trend Chelsea have fallen foul to. While Andreas Christensen looks great on the ball and can play a smooth ground pass, he is weak in the challenge far too often and easy to bully off the ball. Fikayo Tomori is of a similar ilk, often relying on his pace to make recoveries but perhaps not strong enough to deal with more physical opponents.
Meanwhile, although tough-tackling and physical on the face of it, Antonio Rüdiger and Kurt Zouma's social media presence (as excellent as it is) and standing among Chelsea fans as good guys means the veil of being defensive hard men has worn thin.
Fantastic content, but are opposition forwards going to be quaking in their boots in the away dressing room at Stamford Bridge? I'm not convinced.
Enter Thiago Silva - a man who can do both. Don't let his supple skin and boyish good looks deceive you, there is a reason Thiago has been dubbed O Monstro in both Brazil and Italy. While he has all the elegance and adroitness of those coveted ball-playing centre-backs of this era, Thiago has never been one to shy away from a crunching challenge or going toe-to-toe with a physical opponent.
The veteran's arrival should immediately elevate the Blues' back line from 'concerningly inept for a top-four side', to 'good'. With Thiago playing alongside Toni Rüdiger, you have something akin to those fearsome partnerships of yore, if the former Roma man can eradicate the infrequent careless errors from his game.
It's just a shame the Brazilian is already 35.
In one or two years Chelsea will inevitably have to dip into the market again, but the hope will be that Thiago's thriving relationship with his German counterpart means Chelsea have a clear blueprint for who to pursue in the transfer window. It would be no mean feat, but 'the next Thiago Silva' would do nicely.
Source : 90min