These articles are dual-focused, analysing a player’s role at their club from a footballing perspective before considering whether that information translates into them being a viable consideration for our FPL teams. This instalment discusses Manchester City midfielder Bernardo Silva.
“Right now, it is Bernardo and 10 players more”, were the words of Pep Guardiola following Manchester City’s 2-0 Community Shield win over Chelsea in August. He went on to appear in all but two of the club’s league matches in 2018/19, enjoying a standout season which saw him duly nominated for the PFA Player of the Year Award.
It is not just his ability on the ball that received such praise, but his work out of possession. Following the aforementioned Chelsea victory, Guardiola went on to say, “He is so intelligent, he is clever. He is a fighter, a competitor.” In very few words, Guardiola addressed the two elements which make Bernardo Silva such an important player – his attacking flair combined with an acknowledgment of his defensive responsibilities. The 2-1 victory over Liverpool was the perfect example of that as he was frequently involved in Manchester City’s attacking play but also covered enough ground to beat his own record of distance covered by Premier League players in 2018/19, travelling 13.7km.
As discussed in the Kevin De Bruyne player analysis, this is a requirement of Guardiola’s midfielders and perhaps explains why Phil Foden is having to bide his time for a regular starting place.
With De Bruyne missing half of the club’s league games through injury and David Silva’s pitch time reducing, it was the ideal time for Bernardo Silva to step up. He seamlessly fit into a more central role, a testament to both his qualities and the depth of Manchester City’s squad. His experience playing out wide gave him an even more prominent role, depending on whether Guardiola required Riyad Mahrez or Leroy Sane as opposed to two out-and-out central midfield players.
However, his tactical importance does sometimes come at the cost of direct goal involvements. Just seven goals and seven assists (eight in FPL) is a modest return for a player starting week in week out for one of the best attacking sides in Europe. Those returns were in line with his expected data, comprised by an xG and xA of 7.38 and 7.47 respectively. Given the quality within the Manchester City squad, there is potential scope for improvement in that regard.
That data was partly a result of an impressive total of 44 shots in the box and 71 chances created across the season. Just eight Premier League midfielders were able to manage more shots in the box – two of which (Eden Hazard and Diogo Jota) no longer fit that category.
Only one midfielder was able to boast more shots in the box and chances created in 2018/19 and that was Gylfi Sigurdsson. Interestingly, both midfielders are priced at £8.0m, suggesting a premium has been applied to Bernardo Silva because of the nature of the team he represents. This is not a case of ruling him out of consideration, but the wealth of Manchester City options provide a compelling case to opt for the Icelander in the short to medium-term during Everton’s favourable fixtures.
So whilst there are very few Premier League midfielders who possess Bernardo Silva’s footballing brain and tactical awareness, the competition for direct goal involvements and therefore FPL points is steep, particularly from the equally priced Gylfi Sigurdsson. The Portuguese is simply one of a number of good midfield and Manchester City options going into 2019/20.