How David Silva makes Manchester City tick

David Silva was the chief architect in Man City’s thumping 6-1 win over Man Utd. While Mario Balotelli was taking the acclaim for two goals and a controversial t-shirt, David Silva was doing what he has done all season, picking the opposition defence apart.

After a campaign spent mostly on the wing, Roberto Mancini moved David Silva in to a more central role as the team’s Trequartista this year and Man City haven’t looked back. With Silva now pulling the strings and Nigel de Jong, Gareth Barry and Yaya Toure behind him, David Silva’s individual performance has improved, as have Man City’s results.

What a difference a year makes

Last season after nine Premier League matches, Man City had scored 11 goals and put 17 points on the board, as Roberto Mancini was criticised for a very defensive brand of football. This year, Man City have already have scored 33 goals through 9 games – a Premier League record – and have already registered a league leading 25 points.

Of course it’s easy to say that David Silva has even better talent around him like Sergio Aguero and Samir Nasri this season. However, after a year of getting used to life in England, David Silva has come on in leaps and bounds since moving inside:




Minutes per


Minutes per
















Key passes

























Premier League matches only. Source: OPTA
After operating on the flanks in the last Premier League campaign, moving David Silva in to the middle has given the Spaniard more touches of the ball – a touch every minute compared to every 1.2 minutes. It has also seen him increase his passes from one every 1.6 minutes to one every 1.3 minutes.

The result. More key passes this season as David Silva is creating a chance every 31 minutes, compared to every 39 minutes last season. He is also providing more assists, setting up a goal every 119 minutes, compared to every 366 minutes last year. This already has him one shy of his total of 7 helpers in the Premier League last season.

David Silva is difficult for opposing defenders to handle

Want more proof of just how much improvement David Silva has made moving inside?

He is not just supplying goals, but scoring them as well. In the 2010/11 season, Silva scored 5 goals in the Premier League at a rate of one every 515 minutes on the pitch. This season he’s already scored 3 Premiership goals, at a rate of a goal every 238 minutes.

The reason? Now he is playing in a central role, David Silva is getting in to more shooting positions. Last season he would take a shot every 65 minutes on the pitch in the Premier League, this year he is letting an effort fly every 34 minutes. If he continues at this rate, he should hit 10 goals in the Premier League for the season, double his tally from last year.

David Silva makes other players better

David Silva has not just improved his own performance since moving off the wing; he has also made his teammates better. Silva’s key passes and through balls have created more chances, and more goals, for the whole City team. Silva has spread his assists around with Sergio Aguero the main benefactor, scoring three goals from David Silva passes. However, Edin Dzeko, James Milner and Samir Nasri have all fired a goal home from a Silva pass, as the Spaniard has 6 assists already his season.

How David Silva makes Man City tick

The difference between last season and this year, is that David Silva has moved inside off of the wing and is receiving more touches of the ball, making more passes, more key passes and taking more shots at goal. This becomes more apparent when we compare heat maps between last season and this year.

Take the performance of David Silva in Man City’s trip to White Hart Lane in last season’s 0-0 draw in comparison to this season’s 5-1 drubbing of a very good Tottenham side:

David Silva operated on the flanks in last season's 0-0 draw (on the left) and this season's encounter played in his new central floating role in Man City's 5-1 win (right) - Guardian Chalkboards.

When Man City travelled to Spurs last season (left chart), David Silva operated mostly on the wing, where he made the majority of his passes from the left (10%) and right (12%) flanks and the inside left channel just inside Spurs’ half (16%). The match ended 0-0 and David Silva attempted 59 passes, of which 47 were successful and 12 unsuccessful.

This season’s trip to White Hart Lane (right chart) saw David Silva operating in his new central floating role, as Man City destroyed Spurs 5-1. Whereas the game the season before saw David Silva make the majority of his passes from wide areas, this season’s match saw him distribute the ball much more in the middle of the park. Predominantly he operated from the inside right channel in the opponents half where he made 25% of his passes – 11% just inside the Spurs half and 14% just outside their area. In total Silva made 67 passes, of which 62 were successful, so he not only touched the ball more, but he completed a higher percentage of his passes too.

In the 6-1 thumping of Man Utd, David Silva also did a lot of his work from this inside right channel: assisting on Dzeko’s second goal, creating the sublime pass for Milner to provide Balotelli’s second strike, whilst also scoring himself from this area of the pitch. While Silva has licence to roam, the inside right channel is definitely his preferred area to operate.

Man City have made some major signings that have come in and improved the team like Sergio Aguero and Samir Nasri. They’ve also received improved contributions from Edin Dzeko and Mario Balotelli. But so far this season, moving David Silva inside to be the architect of Man City’s attack has had the biggest impact on the team. Three goals, six assists and thirty-four key passes are what has made Man City tick.

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2 Responses to How David Silva makes Manchester City tick

  1. Mark December 13, 2011 at 5:11 am #

    great article he has played suburbly this year and whenever he gets the ball you know something will elaborate. when he drifts in open spaces and into midield or in advanced positions behind the strikers (like sneijder), his short passing, defence splitting through balls and outstanding close ball control (likewise to messi) makes him one of europes best players this season.

    his move into a free role to gain the ball more often, has been beneficiary to him and city, he reminds me of the vast improvement iniesta gained when he moved off the flanks to play in a more central role alongside the king (xavi). now look how highly regarded andre is in world football.

    now this poses a question for AVB which is whether or not to have juan mata yet again follow in silvas footsteps and move off the flanks into a free playmaking role for chelsea.

    imo juan would suit this role brilliantly and i wouldnt be suprised if we see this change sooner rtather than later as well as maybe seeing sturridge set as the single lone striker>>>

    • Mark Redford December 13, 2011 at 12:10 pm #

      Agree with you about David Silva and I also think Juan Mata would suit a more central role. I can see AVB doing this seeing as for now he seems to have dropped Lampard to the bench and Mata would fit in to that central role perfectly. However, he seems to prefer going with Romeu, Meireles and Ramires as his midfield three with Mata and Sturridge flanking Drogba right now. Maybe this is to allow Mata to acclimatise to the English game, but with Drogba almost certainly leaving the club, this would allow Sturridge to play more central and Mata to fit in behind.