In the past two years, Bernardo Silva has gone from a very talented footballer that would occasionally come on and make a difference for Manchester City, to one of the best players on the planet. Silva does the simple things very well while simultaneously making the complex look very, very easy. The decisions he makes on a football pitch are absolutely brilliant and he’s even grown into a player capable of playing not only on the wing but in central midfield as well. This is a tactical analysis of Manchester City’s supreme star, Bernardo Silva.
POSITIONING, CLOSE CONTROL & INTERPLAYEmbed from Getty Images
Bernardo Silva is equally capable of playing as a ’10’, ‘8’ or ‘7’. When he plays on the right wing, he’s far from an out and out winger going up and down the lines and frequently cuts inside, looking for one-two’s with the right-sided central midfielder and striker, which this season have largely been occupied by Kevin de Bruyne and Sergio Aguero. In this position, Silva will hold his position out wide and help Guardiola to maintain the width that he wants. When on the ball, the Man City attacker will often look to cut inside on his left foot and help to create chances for his teammates in central areas.
Last season with De Bruyne’s long-term injury spell, Bernardo Silva frequently took up more of a central midfield position, playing as an ‘8’ (central midfield) or ’10’ (attacking midfield). This allowed his fantastic on-the-ball ability and passing range to be on full display where he managed 7 goals and 7 assists in 36 Premier League matches. However, with Silva’s off-the-ball movement, he’s one of those players that you simply cannot lock down to just one position. With a practically magnetic close control, he will frequently hold the ball up for longer periods of time than players like David Silva or Ilkay Gundogan, looking for the perfect moment to release. When he does look to create chances, he’s usually very successful and has a fantastic ability with through-ball and cross-field passes, highlighted again by his 7 assists last season.
Not only does he work very hard when his team are in possession, but he has also earned a reputation for being particularly industrious out of possession – frequently winning the ball back for his team and restarting attacks higher up the field. Unlike the aforementioned Kevin de Bruyne or perhaps a younger version of his name compatriot David Silva, Bernardo Silva does not like to dive into tackles and is actually very successful at timing the very few tackles he’s required to put himself into each game. He also has a tremendous work rate like arguably no other player in the Manchester City. His track record for distances run in Premier League games usually averages around 13-kilometers, which is insanely impressive for a team that spends 60-70% of the time in a match on the ball, playing something of a reformed version of tika taka football. His defensive work rate and ability in possession are just two of the many reasons why although he came to Manchester City as a winger, Bernardo Silva has been so successful when playing in central midfield.
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Some of the many standout attributes of Bernardo Silva’s game include his tremendous footballing IQ, concentration, timing of the runs and overall decision making. Silva is not usually the type of player to score goals from cracking long shots from distance. Many of his goals come from late, perfectly timed runs into the box where he catches the opposition off-guard and finishes on a one-timer. Silva often looks for opportunities to create space on the blindside of the defender, particularly when crosses are coming into the box. Instead of running toward the post in hopes that a player will ping a far-post cross into the box, Silva will often shift his movement toward the top of the box, where the defenders are unable to recover in time to catch him. One of the things that Bernardo Silva does so well in these instances is simply reading the positioning and movement of his striker (often Sergio Aguero) and taking up a position that counter-acts and balances that position. Often when the defenders get tied up with Aguero or Sterling, Bernardo Silva will make a quick movement the other way and find himself completely unmarked for a one-time finish. Being a player who is very capable with both feet, Silva has no problem at all finishing off these chances that he creates for himself with his impeccable movement.
Another aspect to these clever off-the-ball movements is in reading the position of the opposition defender. When the ball is on the left-side for example, the left-back up against Bernardo Silva will often shift to the middle. However, Bernardo will maintain his width, allowing City to switch play at any moment. With players like Aymeric Laporte and Kevin de Bruyne who can pick a pass out from anywhere on the field, Silva’s ability to maintain that width can become absolutely imperative for his team.
Within the past two years since his move to Manchester City, Bernardo Silva has become one of the best footballers in the world and his footballing brain seems to get bigger and bigger with every match he plays under Pep Guardiola. Capable of playing in three different positions to equal effect, Silva has simply become a name-stake in Manchester City’s lineup and someone Guardiola cannot leave out. His game understanding has transformed under Pep Guardiola and the Portuguese winger has not only become a player capable of being versatile, playing different positions and dancing his way around opposition defenders like a magician, but also a player who is much more capable doing the defensive work and whose off-the-ball movement has become an equally imperative part of his overall game. Bernardo Silva is a brilliant footballer and whenever he’s in the Manchester City lineup, Pep Guardiola’s side simply do not look like they’re going to lose.
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