[dropcap]A[/dropcap]fter winning their first five Premier League games of the season, not conceding a goal in the process, Manchester City have been brought back to earth somewhat over the last week.
Two home defeats in quick succession have cooled talk that the Etihad Stadium outfit were set to run away with things this season and will have coach Manuel Pellegrini returning to the drawing board to some extent.
A loss to a transitional Juventus team in the Champions League continues the club’s underwhelming showings on the continent from recent years, even if most would expect City to still qualify for the next stage.
A 2-1 reverse at the hands of new away specialists West Ham will come as a major shock to most though and has also given Pellegrini a potential selection dilemma moving forward.
Key City playmaker David Silva missed the defeat to the Hammers having picked up a slight injury in the warm-up, allowing club record signing Kevin De Bruyne to occupy his favoured number ten role.
The Belgian scored his side’s goal, was good value for his man of the match award and suggested that he is ready to replicate his stunning exploits from last season in the Bundesliga in English football.
Spanish superstar Silva has become a critical member of the City side in recent campaigns, proving himself as one of the most devastating creative players in European football.
Although Vincent Kompany may provide the required inspiration, Yaya Touré the drive from midfield and Sergio Agüero the killer instinct in attack, there is a case to suggest that Silva, not any of his illustrious team-mates, is City’s most important player.
However, De Bruyne’s impressive showing in a central role against West Ham shows that the former Valencia schemer is not the only top-drawer number ten at Pellegrini’s disposal.
Raheem Sterling, who had taken up a central role in recent times at Liverpool, has become resigned to a wide berth at City due to the stellar talent competing for the number ten role.
On the other flank, De Bruyne was seemingly being eyed up as an upgrade on previous occupant Jesus Navas, but this option has the potential to offset the team’s attacking balance.
Although the least technically gifted of all the afore-mentioned attacking City stars, Navas offers searing pace and another vitally important entity – width.
The ex-Sevilla man hogging the touchline creates space for others in central roles, while fielding De Bruyne on the right-flank will surely only add an extra player with aspirations of coming infield.
Due to such an extortionate transfer fee, all eyes will be on De Bruyne to show the same scintillating form that he displayed last season at Wolfsburg – but Pellegrini has a significant role in getting the best out of the Belgian.
His performance against West Ham, in the same position he occupied last term in Germany, shows that fielding De Bruyne centrally is City’s best chance of the attacking midfielder living up to his considerable billing.
Silva has been deployed on a flank in the past for the Etihad Stadium outfit, but this threatens to negate the influence of the team’s most creative player.
Against Juventus, the Spaniard had something of an off night, with City not at their best collectively as a result. De Bruyne meanwhile was not fielded alongside the diminutive playmaker, instead having to make do with a spot on the bench.
Moving forward and with Silva surely back in first-team contention very soon, it will be interesting to see how Pellegrini uses this talented pair and whether he can maximise the abilities of them both simultaneously.
The embarrassment of riches that De Bruyne has created certainly gives the Chilean manager more weaponry in the final third, but also threatens to offset the balance of a side that looked unplayable in the early days of the campaign.
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