David Silva shows again he can be influence to swing title race Manchester City’s way

Greg Lea writes David Silva has hit the ground running in top form on return from injury, showing how he is the lynchpin in Manchester City's title ambitions.

Manchester City's David Silva shown in action during their Premier League match against Southampton last weekend. Peter Powell / EPA / November 28, 2015
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It often takes footballers a while to get back to their best after recovering from injury.

Multiple matches can be required to regain full fitness and reacclimatise to surroundings, while the collective context of the team – things such as recent form and levels of confidence – can affect the impact made by the returning individual.

Not so David Silva. The Spanish midfielder was included in Manchester City's starting line-up for Tuesday's 4-1 League Cup victory over Hull City after a two-month lay-off and instantly dazzled, reassuming the creative mantle and inspiring his side to a comfortable victory.

Read more: Chelsea and Liverpool on the up – Thomas Woods predicts the Premier League weekend

A glance at the Premier League table would suggest that City did not really miss Silva after he picked up an ankle injury on international duty in early October.

Manuel Pellegrini’s side sit at the summit of the standings after 14 matches and will be looking to extend their lead over Leicester City, Manchester United and Arsenal at the top when they face Stoke City in Saturday’s early kick-off.

They also sealed their progression into the knockout stages of the Uefa Champions League in Silva’s absence, beating Sevilla at home and away before last week’s narrow defeat to group-leaders Juventus.

Club record signing Kevin De Bruyne has impressed in a variety of forward roles in Pellegrini’s favoured 4-2-3-1 formation, with Yaya Toure also occasionally redeployed in the central attacking slot vacated by the former Valencia man.

Upon closer examination, though, it is clear that City lacked something without their primary playmaker.

Silva’s nous and inventiveness was sorely missed in goalless draws with Manchester United in October and Aston Villa last month. City’s display in the former game was pleasing only in a defensive sense, while in the latter they struggled to break down a Villa side who have lost 11 of their 14 Premier League encounters this season.

City were also hugely disappointing in the 4-1 loss to Liverpool two weeks ago, though Jurgen Klopp’s men’s dominance that day was such that even Silva’s presence would probably have made little difference.

Silva showcased exactly what he brings to the table against Hull in midweek, pulling the strings in his preferred No 10 position behind lone striker Wilfried Bony.

He ran the game in a way that has become customary since his move to the Premier League in 2010, picking up the ball in pockets of space between the lines and dictating play from there.

His weight of pass was typically terrific, and he showed few signs of rustiness with his excellent close control and exemplary first touch.

City’s opponents may have been from the Championship – Steve Bruce’s Hull are targeting automatic promotion back to the top flight after being relegated on the final day last term – but that should not detract from what was a masterful performance from the 29-year-old, who was central to his team’s attacking efforts right up until his withdrawal with seven minutes to go.

With this season’s title race shaping up to be tightly fought, keeping key players fit could be even more important than usual in determining who succeeds and who fails in the hunt for silverware.

Sergio Aguero’s propensity to pick up muscular strains and other knocks is an continuing concern, but having Silva available for this weekend’s trip to the Britannia Stadium is a major boost for Pellegrini, City and the club’s fans, who must be relishing the prospect of seeing Silva work with De Bruyne.

There has arguably been no player as consistently influential as the Spain international since he swapped the Primera Liga for English football at the start of the decade.

With his vision, poise and elegant efficiency, Silva could make all the difference in a fight for the league championship that is already threatening to go all the way to the final day of the season.

The real prize?

Having beaten Ruud van Nistelrooy’s Premier League record by netting in an 11th successive game against Manchester United last weekend, Jamie Vardy will be looking to equal the longest all-time run of 12 set by Sheffield United’s Jimmy Dunne in 1931/32 when Leicester City travel to Swansea City on Saturday.

It has been a phenomenal scoring streak for Vardy, made all the more impressive by the fact that he was playing for Fleetwood Town in the fifth tier of English football just under four years ago.

With his goals helping Leicester to rise to second place in the table, it is little surprise that the striker has been linked with some of Europe’s biggest outfits – Chelsea, Manchester United and Real Madrid are all alleged admirers – as the January transfer window appears on the horizon.

Any top sides eyeing potential recruits from this season’s surprise package, though, may consider Riyad Mahrez to be a more tantalising prospect.

The Algeria international has also been superb this season, finding the back of the net on seven occasions and providing six assists for his teammates.

At 24, he is four years younger than Vardy, while his attributes and skill set mean he is probably better suited to major clubs.

Vardy’s primary assets are his clinical finishing and explosive pace, with the latter helping him thrive in a Leicester side that looks to sit deep and soak up pressure before hitting teams on the counter-attack.

With larger sides tending to dominate possession – and in turn forcing opponents to defend closer to their own goal – Vardy’s speed would be nullified and he would become less effective as a result.

Mahrez’s game, conversely, is more about close control and tricky footwork, making him a better fit stylistically with those higher up the food chain.

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