Search icon


14th Mar 2018

This season of all seasons, David Silva’s brilliance deserves recognition

Some of his teammates may be favourites for the end of season awards, but there'd be something incredibly fitting about the Spaniard finally coming out on top

Simon Lloyd

Ask any Manchester City supporter about David Silva, they’ll probably tell you the same thing.

Here is a player who, for all his obvious talent, still doesn’t seem to get the recognition he quite deserves.

‘Underappreciated’ isn’t quite the right term. Too many people have said nice things about him on Match of the Day and Monday Night Football for this to be completely accurate. He does, however, have an incredible knack of rarely putting a foot wrong on a football field yet somehow missing out on the major end of season individual accolades.

Now 32, and one of the most consistent players at Manchester City since his arrival eight years ago, Silva has has yet to win the PFA player of the year, only making the shortlist once. Perhaps even more bafflingly, he’s only made one appearance in the Premier League team of the season, way back in 2012.

With City inching ever closer to a league title that – all but mathematically – has been theirs for a long time, Silva has been building perhaps his strongest case yet as to why he should be named the finest Premier League player.

It was in City’s win at Arsenal, days after their Carabao Cup victory over the same opponent, which perhaps best summed up Silva’s brilliance. More specifically, his involvement in their second and third goals.

The role he played in the second was rather more clear-cut. Having fed the ball down the left to Leroy Sané, Silva made his way infield. Sané found Sergio Aguero on the edge of Arsenal area and, allowing himself a touch, the Argentine then fizzed the ball through a slight gap that had opened between Laurent Koscielny and Granit Xhaka. There was Silva who, with one cushioned touch from his right instep, ghosted past a wrong-footed Hector Bellerin as if he was nothing more than a overweight Sunday league defender with a raging hangover. With his second touch, Silva guided the ball into the roof of the Arsenal goal, beyond the onrushing Petr Cech.

The poise and cool-headedness Silva displayed here are precisely what those who have watched him closely for the best part of the last decade have come to expect of him in the final third. Be it an eye-of-the-needle pass, or the kind of touch which paved the way for this goal, Silva is an accomplished picker of defensive locks, of hurting opponents.

But to fully appreciate Silva is to appreciate the sheer simplicity of the role he played before playing the pass which led to City’s next goal. For all his qualities – the ability to play a killer ball; to weigh in with important goals – he remains the absolute master of that most basic of footballing principles: pass and move. As soon as the ball leaves his boot, he’s on his way, drifting into his next pocket of space. Receive, pass, move. And repeat.

With Arsenal, bless ‘em, attempting to press City’s defence after falling two goals behind, Silva dropped deep to give his teammates an option. Vincent Kompany picked him out on the edge of the centre circle. After a one-two with Sergio Aguero, he exchanged passes with Kyle Walker, still well within his own half. Then, having turned to face up the field, he fizzed a pass back at Aguero. On the halfway line by this point, the striker used the pace on the ball to slide in behind Koscielny. All of a sudden, City were away. Aguero passed inside to De Bruyne. De Bruyne rolled it out to Walker. Walker squared for Sané. 3-0. Game over.

Much of the credit would go to the players involved at the business end of the move, but Silva’s contribution was once again a telling one. He’d drawn in as many as four different Arsenal players during his time on the ball, waiting – like all the very best playmakers do – until the moment was absolutely right before playing the pass forward to set his teammates on their way to another goal.

Here is a player who has been an enormous part of his club’s growth and success in recent years, and despite the strides forward under Guardiola, has remained a vital cog in the City machine. Some might even argue that their dominance this year is merely the result of the rest of the team finally reaching his level.

And so, as he scored both City goals at Stoke on Monday evening, many of the club’s supporters will again wonder if their number 21’s performances this season will be rewarded with one of the big end of season individual awards. Ironically, it’s likely that one of his own teammates – probably De Bruyne; possibly Aguero – will beat him to such accolades this time around. But given the season City have had, there’d be something quite fitting if it were Silva – arguably their greatest ever player – that finally came out on top.