Bernardo Silva: His importance to Manchester City

Bernardo Silva

Manchester City’s Portuguese magician Bernardo Silva put in a performance of a lifetime against Liverpool to keep their Premier League title hopes alive on Thursday night, just months after he was almost shipped out after struggling during his first season in Manchester.

The 24-year-old set a new Premier League record this season, covering 13.7km, beating his own previous record against Tottenham Hotspur earlier in the season. Not only did The Telegraph’s James Ducker describe Silva as a ballerina and a battering ram, the midfielder showed his worth to Pep Guardiola in the absence of Kevin de Bruyne, who has played just 194 minutes of Premier League football this season, missing much of City’s campaign through injury.

In the absence of the Belgium international, Bernardo Silva has certainly stepped up to the plate when needed. Contributing every 152 minutes of Premier League action, Silva has five goals and six assists to his name this season after becoming a mainstay in Guardiola’s side.

It wasn’t that straight forward though. Arriving from AS Monaco in July 2017 for £45 million, Silva struggled to life in the Premier League during their record-breaking title winning season. Manchester City were playing the best football they had ever played with Guardiola guiding the Citizens to a Premier League title, scoring 106 goals and accumulating 100 points. Staggering to say the least.

With the injury crisis in midfield this season that has seen Fernandinho, Ilkay Gundogan, David Silva and Kevin de Bruyne all spend time on the sidelines, Bernardo Silva has had to make the central midfield position his own. The Portugal international has already featured more this season under Guardiola than he did last campaign and he’s on track to surpass his past season yet, which came during his final year in Monaco – scoring eight and assisted 11.

Manchester City vs Liverpool was certainly decided by fine margins, literally. But it’s Bernardo Silva’s individual stats that propelled him into the spotlight. He broke his own running record, made the most key interceptions and halted Liverpool’s deadly counter-attacks when needed. His performance on Thursday earned him Guardiola’s praise, which doesn’t come too often.

“Bernardo did everything. He is the smallest one but shows us that to play football you don’t have to be taller or more physical. He is incredible. I haven’t seen a performance like that in a while,” said Guardiola.

Of course, Bernardo Silva is extremely intelligent on the ball. We all knew that. At 24, Silva is already one of the best playmakers while he’s ready to take David Silva’s place, who is now 32. Boasting an impressive 83.3% pass accuracy, Bernardo Silva’s pass to Sergio Aguero opened the scoring for Manchester City. Silva’s defensive contribution perhaps even more so impressive, four interceptions and three tackles found him at the heart of everything.

Perhaps a fair comparison to Bernardo Silva would be Bayern Munich’s Thiago Alcantara. The latter shone under Guardiola in Munich while it shows that you don’t need to be tall or have a physical build to contribute defensively. Thiago under Guardiola at Bayern Munich was a joy to watch. The Spaniard’s ability to play as a pivot allowed him to be the link between defence and attack from a deeper position, something that we’ve seen more often from Silva this season – perhaps taken from Pep’s time in Germany.

After a slow burning first season in Manchester, Silva is certainly making the 2018/19 season his own which is something Guardiola commended after admitting he’s behind the other players. The Portuguese midfielder pulled the strings from a deeper position earlier in the season during City’s 2-0 win over Chelsea.

“The performance of Bernardo Silva was a masterpiece,” said Guardiola.

“Everybody knows the wingers want to compete. Right now, it is Bernardo and 10 others. But in 11 months it depends on what they show me on the pitch. Bernardo is far away from other guys, so that is why, at the moment, he plays. He is so intelligent, he is clever. He is a fighter, a competitor. I think he is the guy most beloved in our team and today he showed me a lot of things.”

And so, Bernardo Silva is certainly looking like a bargain. He’s the attacking player Manchester City need and the one that is finally replicating his Ligue 1 form. But not only that, for £45m, Silva is finally able to contribute defensively and is able to operate in all already of the pitch, whether that’s on either flank, behind the striker or in central midfield.

Quite the improvement from his debut campaign and if his appearances in ‘All or Nothing: Manchester City’ are anything to go by, it’s difficult not to like the little magician.

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