David Silva: Manchester City’s Mozart in midfield can orchestrate a strong finish to the season

It is impossible not to wax lyrical about David Silva and I have tried many times before to retain an air of clinical detachment only to see the screen before me bloom into flowery prose.

“He’s blessed with the balance of a Subbuteo player”. “A Mozart recital in human form”. “An artist among athletes”. These were just three occasions when the gifted midfielder reduced me to pretentiousness. 

“He cradles the ball with the same care and attention as a small child entrusted with a house-key”.

That’s another. I can’t help it.

And I am not alone in suffering from an affliction that should perhaps be commonly known as Merlin-itis. In pubs and living rooms across the land blokes who call other blokes ‘soft’ for quite liking The Voice UK succumb to using words previously alien to their vernacular. “That Silva is so graceful”. Awkward silence. A big swig from a can. “I mean he’s f***ing class inne”.

The greatest player to adorn a City shirt since the days of Bell and Lee is little short of a muse even to those who regard the band with the same name as a bit girly because the singer warbles like one.

Silva’s new deeper role then – stationed without possession alongside Toure in the heart of City’s midfield – will presumably come as something of a relief to his more reluctant admirers. Because though he still twinkles and glides and orchestrates with a velvet baton shaped like a boot the 31-year-old now has responsibilities to adhere to other than artistic creation.

Best of all, they are responsibilities us Brits never flinch away from eulogising. “Get in there, son”, a fella close-by to me growled loud and appreciative on Monday night as Silva cleared a Bournemouth attack from the edge of his own box for the third time in twenty minutes or so. There was no awkward silence, only one charged with testosterone. A scrappy challenge on Arter soon after in the centre circle brought a nod and smile that weirdly brought to mind the deranged mentor in The Karate Kid.

Silva’s deployment in City’s midfield two has crept up on most of us, a transformation lost amidst the hullabaloo of the goalkeeping saga and Jesus’ claiming of Aguero’s crown. It has been commented on of course, inevitably accompanied by purring approval in the aftermath of victories and doubts in defeat. Stats too have been discussed to highlight the nature of his metamorphosis: this season the slight-of-build Spaniard has made more blocks than Fernandinho and already received four times as many yellow cards as from all of 2015/16.

Yet acknowledging a positional switch and being utterly blown away by it are two very different responses and for the latter a big reveal is often necessary. Monday evening’s trip to the south coast was precisely that. Against the Cherries Silva was everything and more, scampering into spaces only he knows to inhabit and slide-ruling carpet slipper passes to Sane and Sterling at will; being an ever-present and ever-reliable link from back to front; pestering and bossing the host’s industrious midfield with a mix of guile and snide of such quality it presumably had Wilshere bemoaning his English heritage.

The opening forty-five minutes was the most stylish box-to-box performance I can recall witnessing for quite some time and though I am loathe to describe it as silk and steel – particularly as that evokes a cop show dumped after its pilot episode or worse a Little Mix album as they attempt to go edgy – it really was.

The influence, and ferocious application of it, from David Silva in a deeper role bodes extremely well for a side that now boasts seven wins in ten with Chelsea no longer out of sight but a blur in the distance. Whether it came about through necessity or design is open to conjecture but certainly the injury to Ilkay Gundogan facilitated the idea while it is amusing that Guardiola – a coach who famously said he would ideally have eleven midfielders on the pitch – seems averse to picking engine-room specialists in the centre. Already this term we’ve seen Zabaleta and Kolorov posted there while Fernando – and presently Delph – look on from the bench.

The reimagining of Silva as City’s fulcrum appears to be a promising development indeed and it’s certainly good news for those who usually recoil from showy language or hyperbole; who feel more comfortable dishing out earthier compliments for earthier attributes. It’s also welcomed by me as it makes a pleasant change to write about this extraordinary player without resorting to sixth-form flights of fancy.

Oh, but one last thing. In the 44th minute of Monday’s clash the ball dropped vertically from the sky – seemingly from heaven – onto Silva’s left foot with Harry Arter closing in. With unerring awareness and a sumptuous touch the magician flicked it over his shoulder and spun in a single movement. The surprised delight of the opposition crowd was a testimony to his unique artistry. The moment was immaculate. It was visual poetry. It was…I’m doing it again aren’t I?