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David Silva: Transformation under Guardiola

David Haimovich writes to describe how David Silva’s transformation under Guardiola is similar to that of Iniesta’s under the same manager.

Siesta- a term used in Spanish to describe a period of time in which a person takes a break in the afternoon, usually for a nap.

Siesta in football- the transformation of David Silva to Andres Iniesta by Pep Guardiola

Pep Guardiola’s arrival to the Premier League has seen him apply his style to his Manchester City squad immediately. Playing out from the back at all costs, inverted full backs and wide players staying as wide as possible. One player that sits in the heart of the system in his new role is David Silva. The Spaniard in his new central role is one of Guardiola’s important players in his setup and is on the course to become a version of another great Spaniard, Andres Iniesta.

Why does Pep need an Iniesta-like player at Man City?

It is already well known that Guradiola’s teams are a reflection of how football should be played according to the La Masia Principles. A system which Guardiola grew up in and developed as a player. Iniesta is a result of the same academy and taking into consideration that both of them are central midfielders, Guardiola certainly knows how one should operate and which qualities one should possess in order to turn on the style. It was Guardiola who chose to use Iniesta in a deeper role, right in the centre of the park, instead of an attacking midfielder behind the striker or in a wider position (usually on the left) that Iniesta used to occupy earlier in his career.


When Pep left Catalonia behind and went on to his new challenge in Bavaria he felt he needed the same sort of player there as well. By making Thiago Alcantara one of his first signings at Bayern Munich it is clear why Guardiola brought him along.  Injuries hampered Thiago’s pivotal role in the squad, so Pep had to find another player to fill in the void, Thiago managed to play 25 matches for Bayern in his first season, most of them as a sub. The introduction of Lahm as a central/Defensive Midfielder allowed Toni Kroos and Bastian Schweinsteiger to operate in front of him kept Pep’s system alive. The 14/15 season brought even more injury problems to Thiago who featured only in 15 matches that season. Kroos left for Real Madrid, Xabi Alonso made the opposite journey and Pep continued to Improvise without a natural creative central midfielder of his liking.  The 15/16 season was the first Pep used Thiago to the fullest with the midfielder featuring in 42 matches. Bolstered by the arrival of Arturo Vidal and emergence of young talent Joshua Kimmich, Pep finally had the right options to choose from in midfield.

A creative central midfielder is crucial for a Guardiola side in creating chances. Comparing Thiago and Iniesta in their final season’s under Guardiola’s guidance reveals similar stats. Iniesta played 31 La Liga matches in the 2012/13 Campaign and Thiago played 27 Bundesliga Matches so the amount of playing time is almost equal.  In terms of forward passes Iniesta registered 1264 passes compared to Thiago’s 883. The two boast a high pass completion percentage with Iniesta edging it by 2 percent with 90% accuracy to Thiago’s 88%. As for Key Passes, Thiago leads the category with 34 to Iniesta’s 28, although Iniesta created more chances with 44 in comparison to Thiago’s 37. There’s no end to statistics and adding numbers to the plot but the vision is clear. A midfielder who can pass the ball around with high accuracy, keeps possession and creates chances follows Guardiola wherever he goes.

The City Squad

Prior to Guardiola’s arrival in Manchester the options in central midfield were the following: Fernando who is defensively minded, Fernandinho who is more of a deep lying midfielder and Yaya Toure, City’s box to box midfielder and Fabian Delph whose role in the current City Squad is unclear. This midfield is not a creative one, well, at least by Pep’s Standards.

City’s creativity in recent years came mostly from David Silva and got an upgrade with the arrival of Kevin De Bruyne last season. The two were playing either on the flanks or behind the striker providing killer balls.

When Pep arrived the area of the field that was immediately overhauled is the midfield. Pep’s first signing, who has featured just once, was Borussia Dortmund’s and Germany’s central midfielder, Ilkay Gundogan.  In order to execute his style of play he also added two more natural wingers to the squad by capturing Celta Vigo’s Nolito, and Schalke’s 04 promising talent, Leroy Sané.

So far, Yaya Toure is not in Pep’s plans. He was also the man who showed Touré the way out of Barcelona a few years back. Fernando and Delph only met the starting line-up this season in the protocol 2nd leg of the Champions League playoffs vs Steaua. The only player in the centre of the park that seems to be to Pep’s liking is Fernandinho. The Brazilian acts as the defensive midfielder in this City line up having started in all of city’s league games so far.

The David Silva Utilization

David Silva is now in his 7th season at Manchester City. During his time at the club he’s played under managers with different approaches towards how football should be played. In spite of that, his style was always the same. The arrival of Guardiola sees him tackle a new position at the age of 30. Usually, footballers of this age aren’t fond of changing positions and reinventing themselves, but when you have the footballing mind that Silva has it is much easier.

Silva’s preferred positions are either on the left or behind the striker as an attacking midfielder. He has been ever present for the Citizens recording 266 appearances in all competitions. 64 just behind the striker, and 118 out wide.

Actually, Pep’s has also used Kevin De Bruyne in the central midfield position alongside Silva but it seems that Silva will cement this role as his own either with the Belgian next to him or Gundogan.

Silva is similar to Iniesta not only in size but very much in style of play. Equally tall and not very physical. He is cool and composed on the ball and always has an eye for a pass and is able to dictate tempo. Silva also contributes with the occasional goal every now and then. Their stats from last season’s league appearances are nearly identical. Silva played 4 league games less than Iniesta, 24 compared to Iniesta’s 28. Silva’s 86% pass completion percentage falls short of by 2 percent of Iniesta’s. Silva beats Iniesta in terms of creating chances and key passes by leading in both charts with 66 and 55 respectively compared to Iniesta with 32 and 30 respectively. While Silva spent the last season in wider and more dangerous areas than (13 matches as a left winger and 20 as an AMC) Iniesta which aided him in recording far more assists. Silva registered 11 assists last season while Iniesta managed only 2. This though can be debated as it might be due to Iniesta coming of age and playing in a deeper, spraying passes from there while allowing Rakitic to operate more closely to the box.


Nowadays, Silva is very much a mature player who would benefit from operating in the middle and deep, allowing his fellow creative and younger teammates to burn the flanks and create havoc around the box, the same pattern Iniesta followed as he matured too. With Nolito being the odd one out, Raheem Sterling is 21, Leroy Sané is 20 and Kevin De Bruyne is 25 years old.

Silva’s experience and style of play is crucial for Guardiola’s team in applying his tactical approach. Being trusted by Pep to wear the Captain’s Armband this season on the opening day of the league and in the Manchester derby shows his additional value to the squad.

David Haimovich

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