Bernardo Silva on the ball. Credit Getty.
Mohamed Salah and Phil Foden rightly took the plaudits for their sensational showings at Anfield on Sunday, but Bernardo Silva’s input should not be overlooked as Manchester City gained a valuable point on the road.
It was in the goalless first half of the 2-2 draw against Liverpool where Silva really sparkled. Playing on the left of a midfield three, the 27-year-old linked well with Foden and Joao Cancelo, probably City’s other two pre-eminent performers on Merseyside.
Silva took the game to Liverpool with his sharp passing and dynamic dribbling. In the first period he produced an incredible solo run, skipping past Jordan Hednerson and Andy Robertson before his agile dribbling caused the unflappable Virgil van Dijk to stumble. While the move ultimately didn’t produce a goal, it’s a sign of Silva’s confidence at present.
The former Monaco man also dropped deep on occasion, collecting the ball off City’s centre-backs and linking the play, while he regularly flitted into the striker role vacated by Jack Grealish.
In almost any other Premier League game, such a performance would have seen Silva scoop the Man of the Match award, and save the efforts of Salah and Foden, he would have dominated the post-match agenda.
The performance was made even more necessary given Kevin De Bruyne’s showing which, while not poor by any measure, certainly wasn’t up to the usual standard we’ve come to expect from the magnificent Belgian.
What a turnaround
Silva’s form in the opening months is even more remarkable given he actively looked to depart the Etihad this summer.
It was something Pep Guardiola confirmed during a pre-season press conference, that Silva wanted to leave the club in order to play more first-team football.
Instead, he’s transformed his City career and perhaps more than ever is an immovable part of the Catalan’s side. He played the full 90 minutes during all of the triple header at Stamford Bridge, Parc des Princes and Anfield, and has started eight of the last nine in all competitions, the exception being the League Cup win over Wycombe.
In all competitions this season, only Ederson, Ruben Dias, Cancelo and Grealish have started more games and played more minutes than the City No.20.
What has Guardiola had to say?
Speaking after the win over Chelsea, the City boss explained how Silva is getting back to his best form in a blue jersey.
“Against Norwich he played exceptional, against Arsenal he played exceptional, Southampton he played at the level of the team - that was not good.
“But how well he played against Chelsea is no surprise. How many times have we seen it? He was an incredible signing for us because he’s an exceptional person.
“I never forget the second Premier League we won, with 98 points, he was the best player in England. He was nominated [for an award] but he was the best.After that season, later he dropped a little bit, he was not in the position he prefers but now he’s back and hopefully he can help us.
“If, at the end, he wants to leave and decides [to go] the only thing I can say is that the guy or the club that gets Bernardo is going to take one of the best players in the world.Is he happier? You cannot play in this way if you are not happy, it’s impossible.”
What’s changed for Silva?
The biggest alteration in Silva’s game this season has been his position. In years gone by, the Portuguese international has flitted between a central-midfield role and playing as a right winger. Last term, he was even deployed in a false-nine position.
However, this season Silva has operated exclusively from the centre of the park and has established a good relationship with Grealish and Cancelo.
The regular run in the team has also benefited Silva who, as well as changing positions last season, was regularly in and out of the side. Injuries to De Bruyne and Phil Foden have obviously contributed to this, but Silva has excelled in their absence and established himself as an undroppable figure.
He’s undoubtedly playing his best football for a number of years, but maintaining that level throughout the season will now be the challenge for Silva. Should he do so, the revival of an out-of-sorts midfielder could prove more valuable than any signing City could have made in that position during the summer transfer window.