Manchester City return to Premier League action looking for a way to replace David Silva. The Spanish midfielder has been as important as anyone to their last ten years. So naturally, replacing him will not be easy. So during this period, Manchester City are learning to evolve for a future without their most valuable constant.
Manchester City Returns to Premier League Action Seeking to Replace David Silva
Manchester City Return with Questions
Over the last 10 years, Manchester City have been defined by the magic of El Mago, David Silva. The 34-year-old Silva is still one of Manchester City’s most important players. And they will be without him for good by the end of the summer.
To some, being without Silva sounds like a sad but prepared for reality. Isn’t this what Bernardo Silva and Phil Foden are supposed to do? Sam Lee pointed out in the Athletic just how different David Silva is from his two understudies. But Sam’s point can be taken a step further. Manchester City has become an experiment in Pep Guardiola’s ability to control footballing chaos, with David Silva as his appointed ring leader.
Like Sam points out, Silva is excellent at the Spanish term ‘pausa’; this is the ability to wait till the last possible moment before action. Whether playing a pass or taking a shot, players with pausa wait on the ball and allow for the perfect opportunity to arise. Superstars like Xavi Hernandez, Zinedine Zidane, Paul Scholes, and Sergio Busquets are also talented at pausa.
Manchester City’s Replacement Options For David Silva
There are other players with that sense of pausa on the current Manchester City roster. Sam’s article talks at length about how good and patient Ilkay Gundogan is. But while Gundogan tends to replace David Silva when he’s out of the lineup, he is much more of a holding midfielder than an attacking one.
Aymeric Laporte, Riyad Mahrez and Ederson are really the only other players that have even a sense of pausa. It is hard to see Raheem Sterling, Kyle Walker or even Kevin De Bruyne slowing down in crucial moments under pressure. Instead, they push forward at full speed to chaotically get past their man or complete an action.
What Manchester City Need
Look at the rest of City’s players and there is nothing but chaotic quality. Bernardo Silva, Benjamin Mendy, Fernandinho or Nicolas Otamendi. Whether it is Leroy Sane, Gabriel Jesus, or even Phil Foden, they all play beautiful football without a moment of patience between them. Finding David Silva’s replacement might be harder than some expect.
It might need to be an outside candidate, but don’t expect that to happen this summer. City’s first priority this summer has to be a centre-back. And there have been plenty of Kalidou Koulibaly rumours recently. So City is going to have to find a player to control those spaces from within.
Pep has said plenty of times in the past that Phil Foden should be the man to replace David Silva. But there might be a stop somewhere else on the field before the destination. Foden has excelled playing as a left-sided forward drifting inside. He’s scored twice since the restart and played quite well along the way.
But the perfect example of how Guardiola wants to use him in this team comes from the Newcastle United game. Foden and Bernardo came on right as Newcastle had to open up their game. And within minutes they both played key roles in a counter-attack goal that was finished beautifully by Raheem Sterling.
And therein lies the answer to what Pep Guardiola and his staff have to do during these remaining games. The Champions League will be played in August, and there is a quick turn around afterwards for the start of the next season. Without David Silva, Pep and co. will have to figure out where they can manufacture control without sacrificing the chaos that has made them so effective.
There are a few ways for them to go about it. On the surface, replacing chaotic players like Benjamin Mendy or Nicolas Otamendi would be a good place to start. Oleksandr Zinchenko offers a particular level of control from the left-back position that Mendy is just not built for.
But creating control in chaos in attack doesn’t come by changing out a couple of defenders. It comes from finding a calm head in the space of an attack. Over these next few weeks, Manchester City will lay the groundwork to finding a new way to manufacture that control.
There might be an opening for Rodrigo to ascend into being that player. His first year at Manchester City has been both good and bad. He has struggled to adjust to defending so high up the pitch. But he has provided the passing metronome that saw him signed by City in the first place, to an extent.
He hasn’t provided the ‘break-the-line’ pass that Manchester City needs. With 2,000 more passes in almost the same amount of minutes, Fernandinho‘s passes have travelled 4,000 more yards forward, according to Statsbomb Progressive Passing Data. It’s not like Fernandinho is just smashing it up the field either.
That’s a clear sign that Rodrigo still has to work on his forward passing. But if he can integrate that into his already excellent ability to absorb pressure, then maybe City have their players to replace the production of David Silva.