Michael Cox explains why the playmaking pass master from Gran Canaria will be the difference between failure and success for Manuel Pellegrini's men this season...
Liverpool’s thrilling 3-2 victory over Manchester City last season was supposedly a title decider.
Vincent Kompany’s error which allowed Philippe Coutinho to smash in a late winner appeared to mean the Premier League title was heading to Anfield for the first time. Instead, Liverpool contrived to blow their chance, and City won the league for the second time in three seasons. This Monday, therefore, isn’t so much a chance for ‘revenge’ for either side, as such meetings are often billed – instead, it’s simply a repeat of a brilliant, topsy-turvy encounter.
Liverpool’s 3-2 victory was a generous reflection of their performance, as they’d started strongly before being outplayed for long spells, particularly in the second half. Their triumph meant one of the finest individual performances of 2013/14 didn’t receive the praise it deserved – Manchester City’s playmaker David Silva was magnificent, and instrumental in masterminding their comeback. With Sergio Aguero fit enough only for the bench, and Yaya Toure limping off midway through the first half, Silva was the main man.
In terms of dominant playmaking performances in big matches, Silva’s display against Liverpool was rivalled only by Koke’s performance for Atletico Madrid in the La Liga title decider at the Camp Nou. There were obvious similarities – slender, arty Spanish playmakers drifting across the pitch, determined to put their side on top, and creating chances for others. The difference, however, was that Silva directly crafted the goals – he scored City’s first, then forced Glen Johnson into an own goal for the second.
Silva may not receive as much credit as Kompany, Toure or Aguero, and in terms of his individual contribution, that’s somewhat understandable. Kompany’s last-ditch clearances are crucial in preventing goals, Toure’s powerful midfield running is more spectacular, Aguero’s instinctive finishes more memorable. But Silva, more than any other Manchester City player, is the man who gets the whole team functioning, and his performance at Anfield last season was a fine example. He was constantly involved in the action, covering the width of the pitch in his attempt to connect midfield and attack, thriving in his No.10 position.
For last weekend’s opening-day victory over Newcastle, Silva was again outstanding – this time from a left-sided role. Although his tendency to move laterally means he still provides incisive passes from central positions, it means more of his work takes place in deeper positions.
He’s further away from goal, and certainly less of a goal threat – although he netted the opener with his only attempt, from Edin Dzeko’s clever backheel.
His defensive work, however, was also of interest. He made six tackles in the left-back zone, of which four were successful. He also recovered the ball eight times, and earned City’s first booking of the season with a cynical foul high up the pitch. When fielded wide, he’s certainly capable of mucking in defensively.
The one thing Silva needs to improve upon is his goal return – he opened the scoring this season against Newcastle, just as he did last season. But 28 in 184 isn’t an impressive return for a player in the Spaniard's position, and while he remains an outstanding footballer, for him to receive the acclaim he deserves, he might need to break into double figures for the first time.