Chelsea conceded 54 goals in the Premier League last season. It was the highest figure for any team in the top half, and it perfectly encapsulated why Frank Lampard’s side was only able to squeeze into the top-four and not challenge beyond that.
These same problems persisted at the start of this season. Chelsea conceded nine goals in their first five league games, including six in 3-3 draws with West Bromwich Albion and Southampton, respectively.
However, while the initial signs were unquestionably concerning, once Thiago Silva and Edouard Mendy settled into their respective roles with their new team, improvements were marked and immediate.
In the five league games Silva has started, Chelsea have kept three clean sheets, their only clean sheets of the campaign prior to this weekend.
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Silva also started two of the three Champions League group-stage games, keeping clean sheets in both, and played 61 minutes in a 6-0 win over Barnsley in the Carabao Cup, another occasion when the Blues recorded a clean sheet.
As such, with Silva absent against Newcastle United on Saturday, it was always going to be interesting to see how Chelsea’s defence adapted. And the clean sheet that Chelsea earned should encourage Lampard and his team.
In Silva’s place, Lampard inserted Antonio Rudiger. It was his first appearance in the Premier League all season and only the second time he and Kurt Zouma had started alongside one another, the other being a 4-0 win versus FC Krasnodar in the Champions League.
For the most part, this new-look centre-half partnership was largely untroubled. Newcastle were exceptionally conservative in their approach. Rarely did they even look to venture beyond the halfway line with much vigour or purpose.
Nevertheless, Chelsea were able to dictate play and remain…