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Rejuvenated Silva sparks life into Manchester City in Yaya Toure's absence

With the Premier League champions' talisman on Africa Cup of Nations duty, the Spaniard duly filled the void with the type of dynamism which has been missing in recent months

ANALYSIS
By Alex Young

It was just what Manchester City needed. With talismanic midfielder Yaya Toure in South Africa representing Ivory Coast at the Africa Cup of Nations, David Silva stepped up.

The Spaniard spoke out on Tuesday to warn his fellow team-mates that any slips-up between now and the end of the season would see Manchester United pip them to the Premier League title.

Heading into the clash against Fulham on Saturday, City were seven points behind their rivals, knowing that United face a tough away game against Tottenham on Sunday. A win against Martin Jol's men was a must and Silva took it upon himself to lift his team straight from the off, knocking in Mark Schwarzer's parry from Edin Dzeko's drive after just two minutes on the clock.

THE SILVA BULLET
2'
Slots home to hand City an early lead
69' Seals the win with his second goal
89' Replaced by Lescott to huge applause
PLAYER RATING
Energised the hosts' attack and took both his goals brilliantly. The second, a deft chip when in one-on-one, was particularly delightful.
Now, whereas City have previously kicked on and put teams to the sword - they scored 93 goals on their way to their first ever Premier League title last season - the reigning champions have notched just 35 goals in 23 league outings this term.

Thus, City reverted to their usual mode after taking a lead this season; hold back. The Blues were struggling to retain possession and lost their early momentum after lapses of concentration in on the ball. Not Silva, though. The playmaker floated around the pitch, providing a constant threat, especially in the final third through neat interplay with Carlos Tevez.

Indeed, a neat one-touch combination between Gael Clichy and the Argentine fed Silva through on goal to calmly lift the ball over the onrushing Schwarzer to double City's lead and confirm the victory. While the first was an instinctive poacher's finish, the second oozed class.

Moments later, he could have had a third after again linking up with Tevez but could only drag his shot wide of the far post after finding himself in a similar position to the previous two goals.

It is a fair assessment of Silva's season, or even previous 12 months, that he has not lived up to his opening months in English football. The 27-year-old provided a stunning 15 assists last term while, with less than half of 2012-13 remaining, he can boast just five.

Indeed, Platt highlighted Silva's reduced return in his post-match interview but maintained that the midfielder offers more to the team than just statistics on a page. He observed: "Last year he had a few more goals under his belt but we know how important he is, whether he's scoring goals or he isn't, his performances have been right.

"I think it's harsh to say he's been lacking because he's in the team for all sorts of different reasons; it's not just his goalscoring ability. I think his performances of late have deserved more goals to be honest and I'm pleased him for that he's got the two - though he should have had a third!"

DAVID THE GOLIATH
5/2 Manchester City are 5/2 with William Hill to win the Premier League

Against Fulham, Silva took more risks and duly reaped the rewards. An increased number of risky passes, quick darts into space and runs from deep gave a much more rounded and efficient threat to City's overall performance. After a similarly fine showing against Arsenal a week previously, the Silva of 2013 is looking more and more like the much-praised 2011 version.

But it was not just the big gestures that underlined the former Valencia star's impressive display, it was the neat, quick tricks and turns that gave him the edge over any other player on the pitch; a little scoop-turn here and a nutmeg there forged him space into which to work and probe the defence personally or through his strikeforce.

Yaya Toure could miss up to four more games for City, including the FA Cup fourth-round tie away to Stoke City on Saturday and the visit of Liverpool on February 3, so increased industry from others in the centre of the pitch is crucial to City's hopes of leapfrogging United. The rejuvenation of Silva could not have been more sweetly timed.

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