Manchester City have seemingly put a shaky start to Manuel Pellegrini’s tenure at the club behind them over the last week, with three comprehensive victories in three different competitions.
The dominant performance in their 4-1 win over rivals and current Premier League champions Manchester United on Sunday shows that they are ready to challenge on all fronts this term, with the Chilean having a star-studded squad at his disposal.
One man that has become synonymous with City’s newfound success over the last 24 months has been David Silva. The Spain international playmaker was a vital fixture in the Etihad Stadium side’s title success in 2011-12, and has proven himself as one of the most accomplished number tens in the European game.
An under-par campaign last season was the result of frustrating injuries, and the diminutive attacking midfielder has also been on the sidelines for the last month with a groin strain. Although in previous years Silva would assume a place in City’s starting XI when fit and available, there is no guarantee that the Spaniard will be afforded the same luxury under Manuel Pellegrini.
Silva’s attributes and abilities certainly fit into the ex-Malaga coach’s attacking football ethos, and he will be deployed as a trequartista in Pellegrini’s 4-2-3-1 system when he plays this term. However, with Sergio Agüero in form and playing well in the role behind a main striker so far in 2013-14, Silva is not assured of a regular place.
To accommodate Silva, it is likely that Aguero would be pushed up as the furthest man forward, with the Argentine more than able to play in both roles. The Spaniard’s inclusion would certainly offer City more guile, creativity and craft and means that more chances will be created. The problem is that a player capable of converting the chances will have to be sacrificed.
In Edin Džeko, Álvaro Negredo and Stevan Jovetić, City have three strikers capable of bagging 20-goals a season if given a consistent run in the team. All three have hit the back of the net on a number of occasions this term, but will find regular gametime a commodity, especially with the return of Silva.
There is certainly an argument that City are a more direct and dangerous side with Silva omitted. Agüero has the ability to act as the link between the side’s midfield and attack, while the presence of Negredo or Dzeko offers a focal point to base the team’s attack around.
Jesús Navas and Samir Nasri were deployed on City’s wings in the win over United, and both played a part in their side’s win. Pellegrini may well consider Silva in one of the wide positions, but whether or not the team would get the best from the playmaker from a flank remains to be seen.
Silva naturally wants to find space centrally, and has terrorised defences by influencing proceedings from the hole between opposition rearguards and midfields. The danger of playing Silva wide is that he would be inclined to drift in-field and subsequently eat up some of Agüero’s space, negating both of their influence.
Navas is an out-and-out winger that offers City something different with his speed and ability to get to the byline. The former Sevilla man naturally stays wide, which stretches opponents and allows for more space in other areas.
Nasri on the other side does operate more narrowly, but has adjusted to playing from wide over the last 12 months. His link-up play with Aleksandar Kolarov on the left against United was a key factor in creating chances.
Most managers across England would love the attacking selection dilemma that Pellegrini has on his hands. The long and short of it is that City have an incredible attacking contingent vying it out for four starting places in the team. What role, and where Silva fits into the equation, will be a challenge for Pellegrini to master when the Spaniard returns to the fold in the next week.