Silva lining for City follows Spaniard's cloudy beginning
David Silva was almost written off as a Premier League player of any particular substance during his early months at Manchester City in 2010.
Deemed too frail and lacking in the required work rate to succeed in England following his £26m transfer from Valencia, the Spaniard even had to endure being mistakenly referred to as "David Villa" by at least one senior 'Match of the Day' pundit until he finally began to banish the doubts and make his own name midway through his first campaign in the Premier League.
There is no confusion over Silva's name nowadays, however, after two Premier League titles and a catalogue of mesmeric performances for the club.
When he lines up for City against Arsenal at the Emirates tonight, the decisive factor in a game which could ultimately tilt the title balance in the favour of the victors may prove to be Silva's contribution against that of Mesut Ozil.
Arsenal's German playmaker has overcome the same growing pains in English football as suffered by Silva (right), and undoubtedly taken longer to acclimatise to the game there, but he goes into this game playing the best football of his career at the Emirates and Silva admits he can understand the comparisons between himself and Ozil.
"We are both midfielders, both left-footed and we thrive on assists," Silva says. "We have a lot of similarities, yes.
"In the beginning, it took me about two months to adapt. I never had thoughts [about not being equipped for English football], I always knew I was going to be OK.
"The beginning was tough but I never had any doubts and, since then, I'm getting better and better and things are going so well. You always need time to adapt when you come here to a new league, but at this level you have to adapt very quickly."
Having been forced to sit on the sidelines for six weeks of this season with an ankle injury sustained while on international duty for Spain, Silva's absence has left City without their creative force at a time when the Premier League's unpredictability sees both City and Arsenal trailing in the wake of surprise leaders Leicester City.
Manuel Pellegrini's team travel to the Emirates having failed to score in any of their last three away games in the league and without three points on their travels since the injury-time victory at Crystal Palace in mid-September.
"We have to win against Arsenal," admitted Silva. "It's an important game, but it's not going to define anything. For us, though, it's just that we have to win.
"The way I play football, you always feel attracted to teams that play the way you play and, if we don't win the title and Arsenal do, it would be good. But we're here to win it.
"Arsenal is clearly a very strong team, but Leicester are playing very well, so both really are direct rivals.
"You cannot discount Leicester because they are playing very well. They are confident and winning their games.
"We are seeing that, unless you are 100 per cent, you can lose a game and the intensity and the fact that everyone is able to win makes the league very, very interesting." City's title-winning pedigree gives them an advantage, Silva believes. "When you win, that gives you confidence. You know you have done it already."
With Silva one of a number of key City players to have been cut down by injury problems this season, and also last term, the fitness, or otherwise, of Pellegrini's squad is likely to be a crucial element of their challenge.
Vincent Kompany remains on the sidelines, once again troubled by a muscle strain injury, although Sergio Aguero is expected to return tonight after almost three weeks out with an ankle problem.
Silva's ankle continues to trouble him, but the 29-year-old admits that, with medals at stake, he will simply continue to put the pain to the back of his mind.
"I have to look after them because both of them have been damaged over the years in football, but when you get on the pitch, you don't think something might or might not happen," he added.
"In the past, there have been games where I have played where I have had injections.
"Two years ago when we won the league, I played for months with pain and had to have injections. That's something you have to do for the team and have to do for the club. But at the moment, it's fine."
(© Independent News Service)
Independent News Service