While Edin Dzeko’s four goals stole the show in Man City’s incredible 5-1 win at White Hart Lane, you may not have been aware of a very significant aspect of the game- David Silva’s failure to play a part in any one of the away side’s goals.
Silva had been a sensation in his side’s first two games of the season but three assists from Samir Nasri at Spurs has many a Fantasy manager wondering whether his returns will be reduced as a result of the Frenchman’s acquisition. A look at Silva’s chalkboards from City’s last two games suggests that, while there is a definite difference to his play in each game, it’s far from a negative one.
One aspect of Silva’s returns so far worth noting is he has yet to make an assist in any game so far this season; James Milner grabbed two assists in the game at Bolton and there wasn’t any fear of his returns being diminished after the game at the Reebok.
Two goals have come the playmaker’s way, so from a creative perspective, little has changed. Silva had four shots against Spurs, the same number as he had at home to Swansea and one more than he managed at Bolton in Gameweek 2.
Silva’s heat maps from the Bolton (above) and Tottenham (below) games, however, highlight how much more central he was in the opponent’s half yesterday compared to the game at the Reebok.
His passing heat maps again confirm that Silva played more through the middle and drifted wide far less- he made 70 passes against Owen Coyle’s side, with 49% of his passes coming from the wings. At Spurs, he saw almost as much of the ball, making 67 passes, with 35% of those played from the flanks- a significant drop.
Indeed, the heat maps merely back up the idea that Silva will continue to be at the heart of City’s play, dropping deep and orchestrating matters, while getting forward into dangerous areas much the same- the only real issue is how much more of a danger Nasri will be in comparison.
With Silva (bought by ABCDE FC Beerbelly for £21.6m) and Nasri (bought by Pear Tree Productions for £16.5m), it’s a quandary that may only become apparent as the season unravels, though the fact that two of the latter’s assists came from out wide certainly boosts his appeal; Dzeko has shown that with quality service from the flanks, he’ll score plenty.
Nasri v Tottenham, Milner v Bolton
Nasri’s move to the Etihad Stadium certainly suggests he should be a stronger Fantasy prospect than he was at Arsenal last term. Incredibly, he picked up just one assist over the course of last season and has already tripled that tally in his City debut. When it comes to goal attempts, though, it’s worth noting that he had just two shots yesterday- half the number of shots as David Silva.
A comparison of Nasri’s passing with James Milner’s (in the same role) in the previous game is revealing. The number of passes each player made was almost identical -Nasri made 76 and Milner 74- but in terms of pass success, there was a substantial difference- Nasri made only 5 stray passes compared to Milner’s 17, as City kept possession far better with the Frenchman on board.
Taking it a step further, Nasri made just three unsuccessful passes in the Spurs half yesterday, all from corners; in open play, then, he didn’t give the ball away once in his opponent’s half. Milner, on the other hand, made sixteen unsuccessful passes in the Bolton half.
It backs up a quote from this article by Simon Kuper. Kuper paid a visit to Man City’s training ground and found that, just like Fantasy managers, the club pay a great deal of attention to player statistics. Gavin Fleig, City’s head of performance analysis, explained the line of thinking:
“The top four teams consistently have a higher percentage of pass completion in the final third of the pitch. Since the recruitment of Carlos Tévez, David Silva, Adam Johnson and Yaya Touré to our football team, in the last six months alone, our ability to keep the ball in the final third has grown by 7.7 per cent.”
In addition to excelling out wide, Nasri was prepared to drop deep and play central far more than Milner and his link-up play with Silva looked promising yesterday- he played 19 successful passes to Silva and received 15 successful passes in return from the Spaniard. Against Bolton, Silva played 12 passes to Milner and received just 10 back, more or less half Nasri’s tally- an indication the new boy is more on the same wavelength.
Clearly, City are a more cohesive and dangerous side with Nasri in the first XI. His addition to the City line-up makes Mancini’s side a much more dangerous team, with attacking moves far less likely to break down. With Dzeko and Serio Aguero both benefiting from his service, Spurs have already found out just how much of a difference he has made.