The majestic Wembley stadium will play host to a semi-final clash between Chelsea and Manchester City in the FA Cup. Both clubs are known for the substantially deep pockets of their respective owners who have assembled their squads by parting with millions. The quality within the two sides attracts envy from most clubs around Europe but even so, there is a lack of depth. In City’s case, David Silva’s race to be fit for tonight highlights their reliance on him.
Silva took the Premier League by storm when he arrived at City in the summer of 2010. He was immediately given the task of orchestrating attacks in the final third for Roberto Mancini’s side and he naturally thrived in the role. His vision, passing, close control and dribbling marked him out as a creative gem and one of the most dangerous attacking players in England.
Silva excelled in his second season as he topped the assists charts with 15 on his way to picking up a league winner’s medal. Despite the acquisition of Samir Nasri from Arsenal last summer, City have continued to rely on the Spanish international to provide the creative spark in midfield. It has long since been observed that the Citizens often struggle to break down oppositions in Silva’s absence.
Nasri was meant to provide able support and cover for the Spaniard but he hasn’t performed to his abilities since his departure from Arsenal. He started in promising fashion but went off the boil thereafter, only showing up when the rest of the team plays well and going missing in more difficult circumstances.
Apart from the Frenchman, there aren’t any other creative midfielders in the first team to step in for Silva. James Milner is a workhorse and a reliable professional while Scott Sinclair is but an out and out winger. Yaya Toure has been used in an attacking midfield capacity on a few occasions but his method utilizes drive and brute force, hardly capable of replacing Silva’s intelligence and artistic approach.
As such, Silva has been identified as arguably City’s most indispensable player and his recent contract extension only serves to support that notion. One could argue that their opponents tonight have a similar player in Juan Mata who operates in the same capacity and is equally treasured by Chelsea. However, Silva’s compatriot is afforded far better cover with the likes Eden Hazard, Oscar and Marko Marin present within the squad.
Mata is no doubt still the creative hub for Chelsea but they aren’t quite so rudderless in his absence with his team-mates capable of stepping in, a truth that has seen the Spaniard afforded a rest by Rafa Benitez every now and then. Silva on the other hand is a mainstay in City’s line-up out of necessity.
In fact, some of City’s bad patches over the last couple of years have coincided with either Silva’s drop in form or his unavailability through injury. In the current season itself the influence of the Spaniard has been evident with the Sky Blue’s often toiling in his absence.
City can boast of a 59.46% win rate when Silva features in the side but that figure drops drastically to 28.57% when he is missing. The Citizens grossly underperformed in this season’s Champions League having been eliminated in the group stages itself and failing to even secure a spot in the Europa League. However, it is perhaps not as surprising when you consider the fact that they were missing their Spanish midfielder for 3 of the 6 games, losing two and drawing the other.
Furthermore, Manchester City’s failure to match their goals tally from last year comes not from lack of opportunity as Silva alone has provided so many. In fact, although he hasn’t had as many assists this season with Mata bettering him in that department, .
His average of 3.3 key passes per game betters that of Franck Ribery (3.2), Andrea Pirlo (3.1), Francesco Totti (3) and Mesut Ozil (2.9) while Mata averages only 2.6. These statistics alone stand as undeniable evidence of the attacking midfielder’s creative ability and the crippled state of City without it.
Such is his importance to City’s success that Mancini seems willing to entertain the prospect of playing the midfielder even if he is not at his optimum level. “I don't think he can play 100 per cent but it is important he is close," said the Italian tactician when quizzed on his star’s progress.
Silva is reportedly due to undergo a late fitness test which will decide the extent of his participation in today’s semi-final if at all. Mancini and all those within the City camp will be hopeful of his participation as he remains the conjurer of their most imaginative attacks. They will still stand fair chance of victory in his absence but will perhaps be afforded far fewer opportunities to claim it.
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