During the first half of the season, David Silva may have been Manchester City’s best player.
David Silva’s start to Manchester City’s season was immense.
Without their best player from the season prior (Kevin De Bruyne), Silva stepped up in his absence by putting in one of his better runs in a Manchester City shirt.
Silva’s first appearance of the year was in City’s 6-1 thrashing of Huddersfield Town in the Premier League on August 19th. His impact on the midfield was immediately felt.
Silva put in an incredible performance in his opening start. He made six key passes, which was best on the team. He completed over 90% of his 53 passing attempts. He contributed a goal as well. His match-rating finished at an 8.88 out of ten. His performance was only surpassed by Gabriel Jesus (9.47) and Sergio Aguero (perfect ten out of ten).
That opening game against Huddersfield set the tone for what was to follow. From that opening game for him on August 19th, to Manchester City’s 4-0 win at West Ham on November 24th, Silva posted a form rating of seven or better in 12 of his first 15 appearances between the Premier League and UEFA Champions League.
Silva also posted a form rating of an eight or better in nine games. He ended up as City’s highest rated player on three occasions.
David Silva was the creative force that was leading the team’s attack. He averaged 3.4 key passes per game during this run. Had he maintained that over the course of the season, it would have beat his team-leading average in league by over 1.2 key passes per game (2.2).
Silva’s assist total during this time period, though, was just two. Both came in the same league game against Burnley on October 20th. The assist numbers, however, are very deceptive because they completely understate just how good Silva was at creating chances.
The bulk of his creative work was in pre-assist passing, meaning the final pass made before an assist occurred. His initial passes were what was freeing City’s front-line to get into space in the 18 yard box. Many of these moves resulted in the teammate he freed with his passes setting up someone else to finish off an attack rather than scoring it themselves. Thus, even though his assist totals were low, his work was creating much of City’s goal-scoring opportunities.
Silva was also scoring goals consistently himself during this run. He racked up five goals in the Premier League through November 24th. In the Champions League, he provided an additional three goals during that time. His total during this opening run of the season, eight, put him just two shy of the total he posted (ten) in over 40 appearances the season prior.
Even his defensive work was solid. Silva recorded a tackle in all but three of City’s Premier League games during this run. He also recorded at least one interception in over half of those games.
Silva was playing, arguably, the best football of his career at the club level. Everything his manager Pep Guardiola demanded of him, he was providing. Had his level been even slightly lower during this time period, City may not have reached December without a loss in the league.
Things were about to take a turn.