David Silva’s days as a regular Manchester City goalscorer are gone, but in his heydey he merely needed to ask opponents to let him score.
There are plenty of fond memories of the Spaniard, many of them associated with big games that helped the club win any one of the four Premier League titles secured during his time in the north west.
However, one of his finest goals came at a much less exciting time, in a surprise defeat which halted a title defence just as it was getting started.
City had already been shocked by Stoke at the start of the 2014-15 campaign but seemed to have got their groove back with three straight victories – including a Sergio Agüero-led demolition of Spurs – by the time they travelled to West Ham.
The London club had been a surprise package of the early season, beating Liverpool en route to a top-four spot in mid-October, and had struck twice in the first 10 minutes to beat the Reds.
City should have been prepared for another early onslaught but failed to pick up Morgan Amalfitano as the Frenchman stole in to give the home side a lead midway through the first half.
Diafra Sakho doubled the lead after the break, and if City wanted to claw back anything then they’d need their stars to step up. Some of them went missing, but Silva most certainly did not.
Watching Silva’s goal in real time, it doesn’t seem like anything out of the ordinary. Left-footed player cuts in from the right, finds space for a shot and curls into the far corner. Happens every day, sometimes twice.
However, when you take a closer look, you get a masterclass in a player doing everything by doing nothing. The movements he doesn’t make are just as important as the ones he does.
This is the difference between a player creating an opening for himself, and a player creating a sure thing. David Silva scored 12 goals in the 2014-15 season, his only double-figure campaign, and he did it from just 27 shots on target: if he got things right, you had more chance of keeping him out by getting lucky than being good.
Silva’s movement towards goal begins when he’s being forced wide by Mark Noble. Except he isn’t at all. Silva makes the West Ham man think he’s being forced wide, but the only man being moved in that direction is Noble himself.
The midfielder is left amusing himself, like a dog chasing its own tail, in the time it takes Silva to find that first sliver of space. And he only needs that sliver.
For his next trick, though, Silva needs to do that bit more – he needs to reset the memories of two players to the point that they fear getting in the way of a David Silva power-drive – a move which may not even exist.
This is how he convinced Stewart Downing and Alex Song to make way, seemingly just by looking at them, to let him enter the patch from where he has scored before and will score again.
By the time he’s ready to pull the trigger – though it’s more an archer’s bow than a gun in his possession – he’s back where the journey began with a stunner for City at Blackpool just a month into his Premier League career.
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He is caressing the pair’s necks, whispering that he won’t hurt them as long as they let him through without putting up a fuss, before firing two arrows simultaneously.
You didn’t know the bow could even hold multiple arrows, let alone release them in tandem, but there they are. One lodged in Song’s heart, the other striking Downing square between the eyes. No wonder Winston Reid opens up his body and almost points his assailant in the direction of the waiting loot inside the far post.
Injury slowed Silva’s season a few days later, but when he next played a league game at the Etihad he scored the first of four goals in eight days… and the second.
These days, he’s not found in dangerous positions quite as frequently, though all this has done is force him to redefine the idea of danger.
His last two seasons brought 19 assists, and that’s without counting the ball before the final ball of which he is such a great exponent.
The David Silva we’ve seen under Pep Guardiola will still chip in with the odd goal, but he hasn’t needed to put entire defences to the sword with the same regularity now that City have others for that job.
Can you imagine how much more terrifying they’d be with the Silva of 2014 still on board?