Manchester City: Bernardo Silva will be key next season
The Portugal playmaker has had a bit-part role to play this year, but he could be a vital player in ensuring Pep Guardiola’s side stay at the top of the Premier League
Looking at Bernardo Silva’s stats for the season, it is perhaps surprising that the 23-year-old has made 52 appearances for Manchester City this season.
He has seemed like a player who has been pushed out of the limelight by the coming to the fore of Raheem Sterling and Leroy Sané, despite his €50 million move from Monaco in the summer.
He has only missed out on three Premier League games all season – but for the most part, he has had to settle for a substitute role.
More often than not, given City’s dominance in the league this season, the game has been won before he has started playing it.
Silva goal takes City to 104
On Wednesday night, though, there was at least one rewarding moment for Silva.
As he picked up the ball and drilled it through the legs of a defender and between Mathew Ryan’s outstretched glove and his near post, he had notched City’s 104th league goal of the season; a preposterous number, and a record-breaking one.
The sheer incision of his finish – it was like a sniper’s shot into the bottom corner – was also a good indication of why he could be a vital player for City next season.
As reigning champions, potential ‘greatest-ever’ candidates, and likely founding members of the 100-point club, City may find things tougher going next season.
We have seen teams try to contain them and teams try to counter them, with mixed success. The backs-against-the-wall approach hasn’t won many points this season.
Next year will likely see teams lining up with eleven at the back, suffocating the space in and around their own penalty area.
City will be a cup final for every team that plays them, a chance to earn a rare point that could prove crucial come the end of the season.
His skill-set will be crucial
In this sort of scenario, it is the softly-softly approach that Silva brings that could prove crucial.
His dribbling ability in tight spaces is at times almost Messi-esque and, after a fairly simple season to adapt to the Premier League, he will be better than ever come the new campaign. Add in the potential confidence boost of a productive World Cup, and he could be Like A New Signing™.
Close control to die for and the Arjen Robben superpower of shifting inside onto his left and curling a shot towards the far corner – he offers a different skill-set to the poaching movement of Sterling and the high-octane runs of Sané. This sort of variety will be crucial in Guardiola’s mission to stay at the top.
REUTERS/Phil NobleREUTERS/Phil NobleREUTERS/Phil NobleREUTERS/Phil Noble
He could also prove particularly useful in what are likely to be important matches against Jürgen Klopp’s Liverpool.
In the 4-3 defeat at Anfield, Sterling was bullied by Andy Robertson in a game where the former Kopite seemed unable to deal with the pressure of returning to his former club.
City’s passing game was disrupted and they were left too reliant on the attacking threat of Sané, who was out of sorts in his own personal clash with Trent Alexander-Arnold.
In the Champions League, Guardiola tried to rectify this with the introduction of İlkay Gündoğan into the right of midfield, but it was an awkward fit and a tactical misfire which cost City the tie.
Silva deserves more chances
Perhaps Bernardo Silva should have been the man to enter the fray, with his sharp brain and fast feet better suited to the task of taking on Robertson, a defender with more than enough about him to shackle a central midfielder playing out wide. Perhaps he will get the chance next season.
Despite his somewhat restrained role this year, Silva has still racked up 20 goal contributions – nine goals and 11 assists – in his first season in English football.
That is a fine achievement and a good foundation on which to build a future.
He is still only 23, after all. Whatever the big-name signings are this summer, Guardiola should not forget about the Portuguese mini-Messi he has in his back pocket.
What do you think? Let us know by commenting below.