Why Mancini should drop David Silva and play 3-5-2
August 24, 2012 in Premier League
I remember City’s home game against West Brom last April for two reasons. It was the first game after the budget sideshow that was the defeat to Arsenal, and City played with expression for the first time in months, AKA the only game David Silva has played to his potential in the entire calendar year of 2012 in a City shirt. I didn’t process this piece of information until a City fan on Twitter pointed it out, and of course, the fan instinct is to go into siege mode, protect our own and swipe out at any suggestion that anything could be wrong. But Silva’s woeful performance against Southampton didn’t feel like a one-off, in the way a similar wipe out from Yaya Toure, Vincent Kompany (who himself didn’t have the best game) or Joe Hart would have done. Silva’s bad form has been ongoing, and I think it affects the City formation and structure quite profoundly when removed of Silva’s defence-splitting passes.
By all means, if you’re reading this after a game against Liverpool where Silva scored twice and got three assists, I’m overjoyed in being wrong and I shall join you in slamming me in the comments section, where it will be easy to dismiss this for many reasons. First though, I want to make one thing clear. At his best, David Silva is one of the best and most creative players in the world. With an eye for defence-splitting passes that seem almost superhuman, that snap-volley through ball for Dzeko against Man United might be the most inspired piece of creative transcendence I’ve ever seen by anyone in a City shirt. And for the first five months of last season, City’s ridiculously high number of 4,5,6 nil wins can be attributed to Silva more than anyone else, so many chances did he create. But City’s goalscoring fell off in the second half of the year, and while I concede expecting City to score five every game are the demands of an insane person, in my opinion, our formation depends on Silva firing on all cylinders, and when he’s not, a victory is in spite of the set-up, not because of it.
City traditionally line up with four midfielders in central roles; Barry in front of the defence, Yaya Toure destroying whatever unfortunate soul who happens to be his opposite in the centre, with Nasri and Silva buzzing off the strikers, looking for runs and through balls for Aguero and whoever. This cuts through packs like an arrow when it works, but when it doesn’t, there often is no speed or width to turn to in midfield, and it can make City seem awfully narrow minded. Often, we have to overcome these situations through sheer force of will, and while this precludes it from being an emergency, I can’t help but feel that more of City’s players would flourish in the 3-5-2 system that Mancini trialled in pre-season. It would give City some width, giving an outlet to the dormant talents of Kolarov and Milner, who both looked excellent and supremely difficult to deal with down the flanks against Chelsea in the Community Shield, who in our current set-up have no outlet. It would free up Yaya Toure, with three centre-backs plus a Barry/De Jong/Rodwell behind him, Yaya could advance into a 65% attacking, 35% defending role that could unleash the more marauding match-winning player stayed by his current defensive duties. It would make it more difficult for teams to pack the centre against us, and make more use out of the aerial threat of Dzeko and Balotelli.
A fully in-form Silva makes all of this redundant, and is utterly worth building a team around, because he can create something out of nothing. The problem is perhaps that the formation doesn’t give any other midfield options room to breathe in an attacking sense, so cluttered in the centre is the play – with the possible exception of Nasri, who after a slow start in a City shirt is coming into his own and has quite frankly outperformed Silva in the last few games in which they’ve played together. So in my opinion, a formation in which as many options as possible can flourish makes more sense than the one geared around the vision of a man who appears to be stuck in second gear.
There’s been talk of a long-standing, niggling injury for Silva, but he looked fine at the Euros to me, so I don’t necessarily buy into that as the complete reason. Contract talks with Silva haven’t been going all that well either, with the Spaniard yet to renew, which leads me to think that perhaps Silva is thinking of his future and a possible return to Spain. Perhaps he’s unhappy in Manchester as so many people seem to be, or perhaps it’s simply that he’s lost his mojo. The ideal scenario would be a return to form for Silva, but if that is not forthcoming, then we need to act, bring in another centre-back and play him, Kompany and Lescott across the back, rotate Richards, Zabaleta, Clichy, Milner, Adam Johnson (or Scott Sinclair) and Kolarov as wing-backs. Barry and Yaya in the centre, with Nasri playing a sole attacking midfielder role off the two strikers. Because based on current form, you play him over Silva.
I’m not saying dump him in the reserves, but at the same time, Silva can’t be undroppable, and this would be the ultimate motivator for him to rediscover that form we all remember, and perhaps give City a new look and make the teams figuring out how to play against us have to start from scratch.