It would take a very brave person to write off David Silva so consistently sublime has the Spanish midfielder been since his arrival to our shores in 2010. Such is the notable descent in his performances in recent months, however, that slowly nerves are being plucked up and we’re now beginning to hear the highly unusual sound of criticism being aimed in the direction of a player nicknamed ‘Merlin’ for his magical qualities.
What jolts most of all is where much of this disparagement comes from: a Manchester City fan-base who idolises and cherishes their favourite son in equal measure. For close to nine years now the slightly built schemer, who boasts 127 assists during his time in Manchester, has conjured up an astonishingly high standard of creative football at the Etihad and elsewhere and this has won him plaudits far and wide across the game.
His peerless puppeteering has been unparalleled with a masterful appreciation of space and a supernatural capacity for knowing when to release the ball, and to whom, and at what weight. There was once mischievous a rumour going around that Silva misplaced a ball. Nobody believed it.
By playing such an integral part in three Premier League titles, and having done so with balletic panache, it cannot and should not be underestimated how beloved Silva is by the blue half of Manchester. Yet with heavy reluctance still the criticism has come; or more accurately a concern that the passing of time is finally starting to fade the player’s powers and influence on games.
Last Tuesday evening at Tottenham’s magnificent new stadium a great deal of responsibility was placed on their veteran star to connect a team set-up to largely contain with the forward forays of Aguero and Sterling. Not for the first time this season, however, the 33-year-old failed in this task and by doing so it left Aguero isolated and equally as anonymous.
Anonymity is one thing though, what really startles is the increasing habit of a player who for so long appeared to swish around in velvet slippers now passing with leaden feet. Away to Watford in December – in an otherwise immaculate display it must be said – Silva horribly misjudged a pass sending it to touch. It drew an audible gasp of shock from the away end. Now, witnessing such sights only prompts a grumble of annoyance so regular are they becoming.
Though his stats still bear up to previous campaigns – 9 goals and 12 assists this term should eventually surpass his overall contribution to last season – it should be acknowledged that most of his good work occurred prior to Christmas and with a dip in form now prolonged questions are being asked as to why this is.
Is age now impacting on a body that has put itself through over 28,000 hours of competitive football in England? Are the psychological effects of last year – when Silva continued to play through personal turmoil – finally taking their toll? Is rest the answer?
Sadly there is scant opportunity for the latter as the games now come thick and fast, each one crucial and must-win. As City embark on a potentially momentous month ahead, can they afford to keep relying on arguably their greatest ever player?