Wednesday 24 January 2018

Mancini strikes gold with City new boy Silva

Manchester City 2
Valencia 0

Ian Herbert

The press conference room walls at Manchester City have been filled this summer with huge, tinted images from the club's past, which means that Roberto Mancini will be looking Mark Hughes straight in the eye each time he discusses a game this season, the image of his predecessor's squad meeting Nelson Mandela 12 months ago being in his line of sight.

For now, he can stare him out in the knowledge that he has what Hughes was denied -- David Silva, a player for whom City refused to pay Valencia's asking price before returning for him this summer.

Silva appeared for only 36 minutes of his debut, but that was quite enough to demonstrate why his arrival delivers something new and not merely improved here.

Mancini could choose to play the 24-year-old as a left-sided player, but the starting line-up against the Spaniard's previous club suggested that he will be operating behind Carlos Tevez and, if Mancini's hopes of resolving his transfer business by Thursday are fulfilled, Mario Balotelli, too.

Last season found Tevez dropping back into midfield to scrummage for the ball himself and then do something with it.

A joy for the club -- Tevez has been the only stand-out success since the City spending spree began -- but, as Mancini knows, an unsustainable workload if his side are to drive on into the elite. Silva has had only a week's training, Mancini revealed on Saturday night, but his intricate link play and desire for the ball make him a key part of the plans for White Hart Lane, where City kick off this Premier League campaign on Saturday lunchtime.

It seemed harsh to force Silva's former manager Unai Emery to watch the player whom the financially-troubled Valencia have just lost and then discuss his merits too, but Emery was gracious and suggested that Mancini had immediately found the right way of deploying him.

"His best position is playing off two strikers and just behind them like he played tonight," Emery said.

"We used to occasionally play him with just one guy in front but what he needs is freedom, he needs to be able to receive the ball then play other people in and if that means him going out on the wings from time to time then that is fine. He has an eye for goal as well and you also need to get the best out of him in front."

Shay Given has compared Silva to Tottenham's Luka Modric, saying: "He'll bring real presence to the team. He can drift into little gaps and holes, he can see through-balls and that killer pass."

While at 5' 7'' Silva is an inch and a half smaller than the Croatian, he seems to seek out the ball more than the Spurs player and put himself at the nexus of the build-up. How long such a diminutive player will take to adapt to a new country and league is unclear, though he seemed relaxed on Saturday evening.

"As a guy he will have no problems settling into the dressing room atmosphere," Emery said. "He is a pleasure to train and on the field he will have absolutely no problems settling in. He is a great character and a great guy.

"If things are going well on the field he will have no problems and what happens off it is less important, adapting to a different culture and lifestyle. On the field he will make an immediate impact."

Jerome Boateng, at right-back, looked the most impressive of Mancini's new signings, easing past two players to deliver a wonderful cross from the right touchline which Gareth Barry advanced to head in. Jo, who has stickability if nothing else, hit the post before scoring City's second.

Adam Johnson was untouchable at times, operating on the same flank after leaving the bench following the interval, though one of England's brightest prospects may still be kicking his heels if Mancini's starting XI here -- two strikers ahead of a midfield diamond anchored by Nigel de Jong, with Silva at its top plus Yaya Toure and Gareth Barry -- is his first choice.

"It could be possible (that I start with that XI at Spurs), but there are three or four positions that we can play," said Mancini.

The Italian suggested he "has an idea" which, of Joe Hart and Given, is his first-choice 'keeper -- it appears to be Given -- so another Englishman may be unhappy.

These are selection problems that even his well-equipped predecessor would have envied.(© Independent News Service)

Irish Independent

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