MNF Extra examines the genius of David Silva and why he is more important than ever to Manchester City.
David Silva departed the field to yet another standing ovation on Sunday after delivering his latest masterclass at the Etihad Stadium. The Spaniard scored a sublime free-kick in Manchester City’s emphatic 6-1 win over Huddersfield but there was much more to his performance than that. Once again, Silva was simply a joy to watch.
There were the twists and the turns, the expert crosses and cut backs. He could have had two assists in the first five minutes. With Mateo as mascot for the day, the son born prematurely in December, Silva was in the mood to impress and Jamie Carragher is predicting a big season ahead – he is his tip to be the Premier League player of the year.
“He never seems to come into the reckoning for it but consistently over an eight-year period there has been nobody above him,” Jamie Carragher tells MNF Extra. “With Silva, it feels like you get the same performance almost every game. So you notice it more when he doesn’t play well than when he does because his performance levels are so consistently high.
“When I talk about him being player of the year, I am thinking of it in terms of his service to Manchester City and the Premier League. It would be brilliant if he could pick something up like that, not just for him but for football, because he has been a special player. I think when he is finished we will be talking about one of the all-time great Premier League players.”
The statistics show just how influential Silva has been since joining Manchester City from Valencia in 2010. He has provided 75 Premier League assists in that time, which is 22 more than any other player. In terms of chances created, his Premier League tally of 676 is 175 more than his nearest challenger over the past nine seasons.
“The stats speak for themselves but sometimes with a player like that, the stats still don’t tell the full story because he is a player that you just love to watch,” says Carragher. “Even if he doesn’t get a goal or an assist in a game, you just enjoy watching him play. It makes you feel good when you watch him, that’s the only way I can describe it.
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“There are so many top players at City but when Silva comes into the team it feels like they all look up to him and they all want to give him the ball. There are very few players in the Premier League like him. I used to play with one in John Barnes, who, towards the end of his career, was not dissimilar to Silva when he played as a central midfielder.
“He was the only player in all my time at Liverpool, and I think it is the same with Silva at City, who, when you gave him the ball, you would not worry one iota that he would lose it or something stupid would happen. You couldn’t take the ball off him and there are not that many players who are happy to take possession when they are so tightly marked.
“There are probably more now but back then people would say, ‘I’ve got a man on, don’t give me it’. John Barnes would always receive the ball. Yes, we see more of it now but Silva has been doing that since he came in 2010 and that’s what he can do. No matter what situation he is in, you can give him the ball and he will find a way to get out of it.”
Just as Barnes evolved his game as he became older, Silva has transitioned to a deeper role at Manchester City as younger players have emerged. It was Kevin De Bruyne who took on the mantle as the team’s most decisive player in the final third of the pitch – completing 16 through-balls last season, far more than any other player in the Premier League.
De Bruyne’s injury means that Pep Guardiola has been robbed of the man who provided more assists than anyone else in City’s title-winning season. It necessitates a recalibration in midfield and it was perhaps significant that Silva created six chances in his 64-minute outing against Huddersfield – as many as he did in any of his 29 appearances last season.
In the starting line-up alongside Fernandinho and Ilkay Gundogan, something that happened only once last season, Silva was freed up to play a more creative role. He had eight touches in the opposition box in the first half. The most that he had in any full game last year was nine. There are signs that Silva is reverting back to his earlier role as chief creator.
“I wondered at first how Pep Guardiola’s midfield would work with Silva and De Bruyne playing together,” adds Carragher. “I remember one of the early games together against Manchester United at Old Trafford where Silva was almost being used as the central midfielder and De Bruyne was the one to go forward. De Bruyne got the opening goal that day.
“Before that, you had associated Silva with coming inside into the pockets from out wide or playing as a No 10. I think we will see more of that now that he is playing with Fernandinho and Gundogan, two players who are more like central midfielders. Maybe Silva will play a little higher and it certainly looked that way against Huddersfield.”
Guardiola said earlier this year that Silva would be used more sparingly this season. But at the age of 32, circumstances could dictate that this particular Manchester City icon once again finds himself at the heart of his team. Will it be enough to win the player of the year award? David Silva has a strong case for being the Premier League player of the decade.
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