David Silva: A Look Back At Manchester City’s Midfield Maestro

Manchester City's David Silva and Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola after the game.

Reuters / Carl Recine

The Premier League bid farewell to one of its finest players when David Silva was subbed off at the 85th minute as Manchester City was winning 5-0 against Norwich City on Sunday.

The Spaniard ended a decade of absolute brilliance with the Cityzens and it is certainly worth viewing the height of greatness he touched during his stint with the Premier League giants.

Arriving at City from Valencia in the summer of 2010, it is vital to view where else the midfielder could have ended up. Silva himself revealed that prior to making the move he had turned down none other than Barcelona and Real Madrid, instead opting for the English side. This is crucial given that back then City weren’t the European powerhouse that they are today and that the allure wasn’t much beyond financial incentives.

On the same note, and perhaps more influential to the larger picture of English football, Silva had ended up going to the blue part of Manchester.

Sir Alex Ferguson has openly stated in the past that Manchester United were keenly looking at the midfielder during his Valencia days. In the end, the former United boss opted to not go for the player, citing his defensive shortcomings to be the reason. While the legendary gaffer is not one to savor mistakes, the excellent decade the playmaker had would certainly make a few Red Devils wonder what would have gone differently.

Silva’s defensive ethos or lack thereof didn’t feature much at the Etihad as his creative abilities alone sufficed to win over the fans. His crucial presence paid great dividends, as the four Premier League titles, five League Cups, and two FA Cups amply display. Few players can boast of such domestic brilliance during this period. Simply put, Silva’s ascent was one that went hand-in-hand with City’s emergence as the new giant of English football. Alongside the likes of Sergio Aguero, Vincent Kompany, and Yaya Toure, Silva was able to help establish the firebrand style of a balanced attacking football that has come to be expected of City year in and year out.

His numbers do the talking in that regard. With 93 League assists across the ten-year period, his creative input is unquestionable. The 60 goals he netted during the same time have an integral role as well, as will be discussed shortly. Most notably, in the breakthrough Premier League winning season of 2011/12, and the centenary-point title of 2017/18, his assists tally were impeccable with 15 and 11 respectively, illustrating his role. Tactically, the high rate of possession retention became a major asset, one that Pep Guardiola readily deployed, as was his passing skill, making him a potent threat in the midfield.

This is further qualified by his versatility. Largely employed as a winger early on in his tenure, the manner in which he went on to make the central attacking midfield his own was a defining feature of the more successful City sides over the years. This is further impressive when one recalls how well he adapted to the English style early on.

Man City's Kevin De Bruyne celebrates scoring their second goal with David Silva.

Reuters / Jason Cairnduff

His absence may not be felt fully in terms of creative input and playmaking, what with Kevin De Bruyne’s recent historic tally of 20 assists, but those goals will certainly be missed. Simply put, a source of goals like Silva functioned as a capable complement to the ones that the attack regularly supplied. As such, the side didn’t have to worry much about regularly reaching the 100-goal tally that they do quite often. Bereft of the Spaniard, that will begin to be a concern yet again.

The fact that he took on the captaincy from Kompany and is now moving on as a free agent will be one that City needs to introspect on. With Silva gone, much of the old guard that carved their enviable place in the League is now in the past and they will have to be smart with how they choose to replace him and nurture the next batch of players who will seek to tackle the new challenges of a more competitive top-six.

However, the season isn’t over yet, and the English side may just give their long-time servant an even more fitting goodbye should their upcoming Champions League tryst go well.