Frank Lampard believes that Thiago Silva is comparable to Premier League title winners Virgil van Dijk and Vincent Kompany, saying the Brazilian's arrival has set a new standard for the rest of Chelsea's central defenders.
The 36-year-old has been a major part of the Blues getting five clean sheets in a row and he has been involved in six of the seven shutouts that the club has achieved this season.
Ahead of a home league match with Sheffield United, Lampard compared his Brazil international to both the Liverpool star and the former Manchester City captain who played leadership roles in title wins in recent seasons.
"In terms of the career that he has had, of course, he absolutely walks into the bracket of top centre-backs like the ones mentioned," the Chelsea manager told reporters at Cobham Training Centre.
"To achieve in the modern day, you have individuals or pairings defensively that set those standards. We know the importance of defending well to try to win trophies and particularly the Premier League title but they need support around them, behind them and in front of them but when you look at the performances of Thiago in the early games, he can be a big deal for us but we need a lot more.
"When he became available [after leaving PSG in the summer] it was something that really excited me and something that the club moved very swiftly on.
"That was good work and it feels like that now with Thiago and the opening performances showed on the pitch."
Chelsea have begun to use a settled back line for the first time in Lampard's tenure as manager, with Edouard Mendy in goal and a back four of Reece James, Silva, Kurt Zouma and Ben Chilwell.
It comes a season after Chelsea conceded 54 league goals which was the worst total since Roman Abramovich bought the club in 2003. Lampard admits that Silva's presence has lifted Zouma and that the Frenchman has improved as a result of having an experienced partner.
"I have been really impressed with Kurt and his form, what he has given us, also scoring goals from set-pieces and defending set-pieces as well, which is a big part of our game," he added.
"We knew it was something we could improve last year. In terms of the general game, I think with Thiago he can affect people around him because of his status in the game and how he plays it.
"When you talk about partnerships in a team, in central defensive areas, we can all think back and think of great centre-back partnerships.Getty Images
"I think with Thiago he has the ability to not just rub off on Kurt but any player that he is paired within that position, because of his experience and quality. I think he has helped Kurt at this moment."
As a dominant partnership emerges, Chelsea's remaining central defenders are finding it hard to gain minutes. Antonio Rudiger has managed a handful of appearances but Andreas Christensen has lost his starting spot and Fikayo Tomori has made just two starts since February.
Tomori's reduced status saw him almost leave in the summer on loan with Rennes and Everton initially interested before West Ham made an unsuccessful deadline day attempt to loan him in the last hours of the transfer window. Lampard said that it was normal for a young player like Tomori to have ups and downs in his career.
"Fikayo is our contracted player," he added. "We know that West Ham were interested in taking him on loan late in the window. Fikayo took the decision not to go and that’s well within his rights. That had no bearing on my thoughts at all.
"For him, he’s still a developing player. When I say developing he’s had a great two years. He got himself in the England team, was one of the best defenders in the Championship and then played 20-plus games for Chelsea.
"It’s normal for a young player sometimes, in a squad as competitive as ours, where there are periods where you maybe aren’t playing every week. That’s the modern-day younger player in these sort of squads and that’s another test for you in terms of how you handle yourself and train and keep working and waiting for your time to come back in.
"I’ve got no problem with Fikayo. I rely on him. That’s clear from when I took him to Derby and how I handled him last year. It remains the same with him. He’s been a fantastic player for me, so I just see this as part of his development.
"He trains very well every day and when he gets his opportunity like he had when he came on against Liverpool earlier in the season and in the Carabao Cup, it’s important he takes them in the way he has done."