With Manchester City’s recent run of results seeing neighbours United open up a five-point lead at the top of the table it is looking increasingly likely that the Premier League title this season will be heading to Old Trafford and not the Etihad Stadium.
Despite having a crucial week ahead (both City and United playing three times) that could redefine the title race, City’s season is beginning to be picked apart as the search for culpability begins, with Roberto Mancini, Mario Balotelli and Carlos Tevez already garnering plenty of column inches.
One key area which has contributed to City’s post-Christmas drop off though has been the declining production of David Silva. Admittedly Silva’s slide has been from almost unprecedented heights but at the crucial stage of the season, for a combination of reasons, his loss of form has badly hurt City.
Key to this has been the evident tiredness to Silva’s play. Mancini has called upon Silva pretty much throughout the season without him being afforded a break. The difficulty on Mancini’s part was the loss of Yaya Toure to the African Cup of Nations during a busy January period (which also saw Vincent Kompany suspended) and a lack of trust (at the time) in other creative players such as Samir Nasri and Adam Johnson. Clearly bothered by an ankle injury and without any significant period of rest, Silva looks fatigued and unable to impact and influence games to the extent he did early in the season.
I have taken a look at Silva’s numbers throughout 2011/12, breaking the analysis down into three categories: Season, August-January and February-March. The split, whilst somewhat arbitrary, does draw a distinction from when City’s struggles began to take hold.
What I then did was adjust both the August-January and February-March numbers to average these across the season to date to be able to provide a meaningful comparison. This way this was done was comparing the minutes played in both August-January and February-March against the season total and then adjusting his numbers for both categories accordingly.
This area is undoubtedly a key area and the hallmark of Silva’s game. Since we waved goodbye to the month of January Silva has failed to not only score, but also assist on a goal for City; a huge drop off in terms of his numbers from earlier in the season where he notched five goals and contributed 12 assists. In mitigation though, Silva is still creating chances (averaging two per game) although the adjusted figures do still show a drop in terms of his creativity (decreasing from 86-59):
Interestingly, Silva’s adjusted numbers also show an increase in the number of through balls that he is attempting (61-68), but here is the key: in February and March Silva has only successfully made one accurate through ball – a figure no doubt impacting upon City’s travails in front of goal in recent times.
Next Page: In-depth Passing, shooting & ball winning statistics…
In general Silva’s passing numbers do not show too much variation, indicating – as also evidenced with the number of touches he has had – that there hasn’t been a drop off in terms of his overall involvement:
Throughout the three categories – total, opposition half and final third – Silva’s numbers do show a slight increase in final third completion, but contrastingly a small drop in opposition half completion. The difficulty with ‘raw’ passing numbers though is that they are rarely placed in context and it is difficult to know precisely where Silva’s passes were completed, what pressure he was under and what the outcome was.
This is why it is dangerous to place too much emphasis upon completions and percentages at face value without looking much deeper but one very telling area though is the sizeable drop in the number of forward passes completed by Silva, shown in the below graphic, where we can see the decrease in forward passes from 49% to 30%, with backwards and sideways passes increasing by 6% and 14% respectively.
Again, there is a danger of reading too much into the numbers without the context of where Silva’s passes were made but there is no doubt that a 19% reduction in the number of forward passes made appears to be a significant one.
We can see there has been a big drop off in terms of shots (76-64) but the important number here is the shots on target. Silva’s adjusted numbers in this category show a decline from 27 (Aug-Jan) to 17 (Feb-Mar): 54% to 44% whereas the number of shots off target and blocked have not shown a significant change:
The reduction in this category has also resulted in the minutes per shot (comprising shots on and off target, but not blocked) rising from 46 to 61, with his minutes per shot on target showing a further increase from 85 to 138.
With the ball
As shown with his passing numbers, the number of touches Silva has had has not shown too much change. However, Silva’s ‘errors’ have increased across the board as the season has progressed:
Whilst his number of touches overall has reduced slightly (2.8%) Silva has already had half (14) of the total unsuccessful touches (30) in February-March than he had in August-January, resulting in a rise (59-39) in his adjusted figures.
The number of dribbles Silva has attempted is also down (50-38%) – again this is without context of where and when these were attempted – but do indicate a disinclination (or lack of confidence?) to attack with the ball. Added to these areas, since the end of January Silva has on average also been dispossessed more (55-43) and has been more prone to losing possession on more occasions (445-403).
In no way is any great blame or criticism being apportioned to Silva for City’s ultimate shortcomings this season but the numbers clearly show that in certain key areas (ones that City built their early season success upon) Silva’s drop off has been stark and impacted upon City’s offensive play.
The question to establish is to what effect can one individual’s play impact upon the team ? There will be others within the City squad who have experienced similar struggles as all players – and especially those relatively new to the Premier League – undoubtedly ‘hit the wall’ at some point during a long and arduous campaign (as seen in this recent post on EPL Index).
The great difficulty for Mancini has been in not being able to manage this: partly be design but also partly by choice, but as a result this has seen David Silva return his least effective contribution when his side could least afford it.
All of the stats from this article have been taken from the Opta Stats Centre at EPLIndex.com – Subscribe Now (Includes author privileges!) See Demo’s and videos about the Stats Centre & read about new additions to the stats centre.