5 Reasons Why David Silva Is Thriving Again at Manchester City Under Pellegrini
With the way Manchester City's 2012-13 season ended, it is no wonder that new manager Manuel Pellegrini's task going forward was daunting.
Granted, when the club's chief executive sets the minimum hardware return at five trophies in five years, there is no mistaking the urgency. If that is not "win now," it is at least "win real soon."
Because City were unceremoniously dismissed from Champions League play, summarily smoked by Manchester United in the Premier League title race and then (perhaps most embarrassingly) shocked by soon-to-be-relegated Wigan Athletic in the FA Cup final, by May the City narrative was one of a club that had lost their way.
That was the half-empty glass view. The half-full glass view showed that City pretty well strolled to second place in the league table and made a Cup final. That's a great decade for half the clubs in the Premier League.
Plus, as Pellegrini soon found on arriving at the Etihad, it is not like all of Roberto Mancini's 2011-12 league champion players suddenly forgot how to play football.
After a rather ragged 2012-13 effort—four goals and eight assists as against six goals and 15 assists in 2011-12—Silva seems rejuvenated under Pellegrini.
Silva Was Made to Play Pellegrini's Style of Football
From the moment Pellegrini started talking, he was saying things Silva must have loved hearing.
"We are hoping and always going to try to play attractive football," said Pellegrini at his first press conference as City's manager according to the Manchester Evening News.
Pellegrini confirmed that he was not going to tone down his aggressive, attacking style just because the Premier League's normal course of play is more physical than other leagues he has managed in.
"All the other teams I have worked before I have wanted to play attacking football and I want to try that again at Manchester City," Pellegrini added.
Silva's ESPN.com player profile says it well: "Silva is an excellent footballer who is equally at home as a conventional winger, a wide man in a front three or in the hole behind the strikers. A sprightly dribbler with a creative eye, Silva is a master at teeing up his team-mates."
2012-2013 was a poor year on the whole for City's strike force. When a substitute (Edin Dzeko) leads the team in goals, it usually means the starters (Sergio Aguero, the departed Carlos Tevez) are missing the mark.
At least some of the decline in Silva's offensive output last season was attributable to the flaccid, cold offensive tactics employed by Mancini.
There is little chance, for example, that Silva could ever have scored that header against Newcastle United if Mancini was in charge. Because he probably would never have been quite that far up the pitch in the first place.
Pellegrini Gave Silva a Tremendous Amount of Help
Pellegrini did not need to do much talking to let the world know where he thought his new team needed the most help.
Unlike their crosstown rivals, City did not dither and ultimately whiff on the players they needed. City had Fernandinho and Jesus Navas, two first-class midfielders, signed and delivered before the warm breezes flowing through the summer transfer window were even felt in most parts.
Many of City's established stars had to be pleased with the new arrivals. Yaya Toure, for one, could look to Fernandinho as the sort of two-way midfield force that might take away some of the pressure to defend the middle of the park.
But it is hard to imagine any City player being more pleased with those two signings than Silva.
With Toure and Fernandinho locking down the center of the pitch, Silva (never the greatest defender anyway) was freer than ever to focus on playing Pellegrini's preferred style and creating opportunities for his goal scorers to do just that.
Pellegrini's later additions of Alvaro Negredo and Stevan Jovetic, to Silva, must have been like receiving another full complement of Christmas presents on New Year's Day.
Pellegrini Has Made Silva a "No Uncertain Terms" Fixture in the XI
Say this for Pellegrini: He has come to Manchester City and let it be known that while your feelings may be important to you, he has other things to worry about.
Before the season started, Pellegrini did his best to prop up the flagging spirits of the consistently inconsistent Edin Dzeko, referring to him per ESPN.co.uk as "the main striker of the team."
Five halves and one goal later, Dzeko would be very lucky to get the start ahead of Alvaro Negredo when Manchester City take on Stoke City at the Britannia after the international break.
Despite some speculative pundits suggesting that Silva might have competition to make Pellegrini's best XI (right, sorry about that), a quick glance at the squad statistics tells you all you need to know.
Three matches, three starts for Silva. Same with Toure, Navas and Fernandinho.
Samir Nasri, Jack Rodwell and Javi Garcia presently have about as much chance of displacing Silva or any of the others as you do.
Though their chances are certainly better than those of Gareth Barry and Abdul Razak.
To a large degree, Silva is thriving under Pellegrini because, unlike Dzeko and (gulp) Joe Hart, Silva is playing at a high level and therefore is not worried for his job.
Pellegrini Is Already Taking Care Not to Run Silva Down
While Silva has started all three matches for Pellegrini, he has only finished one.
Pellegrini left Silva on against Newcastle United for 80 minutes before sending Negredo on for him.
Maybe the need to put Javi Garcia in for Vincent Kompany nine minutes earlier played a role in extending Silva's run, maybe not. Similarly, the fact that Newcastle United played the second half with ten men might have convinced Pellegrini to see what magic Silva could conjure with more working space.
Either way, Pellegrini knew enough to eventually get Silva out of harm's way in a match that had long since been won.
Silva played all of City's 3-2 loss at Cardiff City, but then when a recent Premier League champion is losing to a newly-promoted side in the season's second match, all hands are needed on deck.
Pellegrini replaced Silva with Samir Nasri, the most expensive spot substitute this side of Fernando Torres, in City's 2-0 victory over Hull City over the weekend. There, Pellegrini had a moments-old one-goal lead to protect. Silva's gifts were of comparatively little use, so off he went.
Contrast Pellegrini's judicious use of Silva with his constant reliance on Toure and Fernandinho, who in tandem have played all but 23 (or so) minutes of City's first three matches. Toure, specifically, has not missed a moment.
Toure and Fernandinho are big men built for extended duty.
At a slight 5'7", Silva needs to be protected wherever possible.
Pellegrini's Flexible Formation Neatly Exploits All of Silva's Strengths
As noted by Sports Illustrated's Jonathan Wilson, in matches where Pellegrini seems fairly confident of a successful result (the Newcastle United match being a prime example), Pellegrini is turning his horses loose.
Of Pellegrini's formation against Newcastle United, Wilson wrote: "The basic shape was a 4-4-2...Silva played in a tucked in role on the left, not a winger but not a traditional playmaker either. The result was he found space again and again."
Wilson conceded that Pellegrini is not always going to have Silva running amok in a freelance role. "It may be that in tougher games City goes for a three-man midfield and a lone forward," wrote Wilson, speculating that a more traditional two-way midfielder like Javi Garcia might replace the second striker in such an XI.
Recent hiccups against Cardiff City and Hull City aside, though, Pellegrini's charges still have a few handfuls of matches against Premier League sides who are ill-equipped to match the Sky Blues' constant scoring threat.
On those days, Pellegrini is going to put Silva out among the midfield monsters and turn him loose in the offensive half.
Doing what he does best.