Having played for Manchester City for the last 10 years, David Silva will now ply his trade in La Liga with Real Sociedad who finished sixth last season, fans will also see him compete in the UEFA Europa League this season. For many, this will take some getting used to as Silva will be missed in the Premier League having been regarded as one of the best Premier League players of the last decade. Silva is likely to replace Martin Ødegaard, the Norwegian returns to Real Madrid having impressed on loan at Real Sociedad.
How will Silva fit into Real Sociedad’s system?
Real Sociedad switched between the 4-1-4-1 (36.8% of matches) and 4-2-3-1 (26%) formations last season. Igor Zulbeldia was deployed in the pivot role and Mikel Merino would play in the left central-midfield position as a box-to-box midfielder.
Ødegaard would play on the right-hand side of midfield(shown in the visual below) or in the attacking midfield role, Silva is likely to be deployed in a similar role where he is responsible for the attacking transitions in the attacking third, 37% of Ødegaard’s touches were in the attacking third.
Manchester City’s tactics last season allowed Silva to play in an advanced position as his side liked to control the match in the opposition half, shown by how high the central midfielders are in the visual below. Silva would often play on the left-hand side of midfield.
Merino and Silva are left-footed and if Silva were to play on the right-hand side it could allow him to score more goals as he is able to cut onto his left-foot, his two goals from outside of the 18-yard box were taken from the right-hand side of the pitch. It will also provide Silva with the option of more varied and unpredictable passes such as reverse through balls.
Silva and Ødegaard comparison
We can see the player profiles for both Silva and Ødegaard below, they are compared with Premier League and La Liga attacking midfielders who played at least 25% of their teams matches last season.
Silva performed better than Ødegaard last season in terms of output. Ødegaard shows a characteristic to dribble as he attempted nearly double Silva’s dribbles per 90. Both excel in passing, however, Silva outperformed Ødegaard on most passing metrics. Both displayed poor statistics in defensive contribution.
This visual creates a profile first impression, however, video analysis will now be used to investigate Silva and build a scout report to find out how he could help Real Sociedad compete for the Champions League places next season.
Operating between the lines
In the previous section, we highlighted Silva’s strength in passing and here we will provide more analysis on this and his spacial awareness.
He is influential in final third attacking transitions as he had a final third pass accuracy of 87.97%. Overall, in possession he was only dispossessed 0.9 times per 90 and had only 1.7 unsuccessful touches, impressive given that he attempted 67.38 passes per 90, the most in the database. This allowed Manchester City to continue their dangerous attacks as he was able to help them retain possession.
Here, we will look at the half space that Silva picked up against Bournemouth in the final third before he assisted Gabriel Jesus. Silva enjoys occupying the half spaces between the lines of the opposition midfield and defence. In the shot below he received the ball between the lines (shaded).
When he received the ball in the half space from Ilkay Gundogan he is agile to quickly turn. Silva has a tendency to pass between the full-back and centre-back or the full-back and wide midfielder of the opposition, the space occupied by Jesus. This helped Manchester City create opportunities against Bournemouth’s defensive tactics.
When Silva received the ball his positioning is brilliant because Jesus occupied the defenders close to Silva, the pass surpassed the midfield so they would have struggled to make a successful defensive action. The positioning allowed him the space to find his pass.
Feeding Real Sociedad between the lines
Below is an example of the run that Portu made from the left-hand side of midfield. Silva will look for the Real Sociedad attackers to make runs in half spaces so he can feed them passes behind the defence as he attempted 2.73 through passes per 90.
Portu is a right-winger and is an example of the freedom attackers have in Alguacil’s tactics as he found himself on the left-hand side of the pitch, Silva would thrive under this freedom as he can operate in half spaces on the left and right-hand side of the pitch (analysed in later section).
Silva operated well between the lines in the Premier League as many sides weren’t so compact. He could struggle to operate between the lines against some sides in La Liga such as Sevilla as they deploy Fernando in a deep pivot role to occupy space between the lines, to prevent players exploiting the space.
Class in creating
Silva is shown to be highly creative, Silva’s assist to Jesus is an example of a through pass, however, his intelligence and vision in making smart passes is also very effective because it can confuse the opposition. An example of this is in Manchester City’s first meeting with Bournemouth where Silva again picked up the ball in between the lines.
If Silva attempted a through ball, one would assume that Chris Mepham would either intercept the pass as he is close to Raheem Sterling’s passing lane (shown by the red arrow if ball is passed), or because Mepham is unbalanced, would at least block Sterling when Sterling received the ball. Sergio Aguero is in a position to receive the ball through on goal.
Silva displayed a high level of vision to see the run of Sterling and an ability to weigh the pass well so that the pass surpassed Mepham. Silva was patient to pick his pass and is another example of a Silva pass breaking the last defensive line. This is an example of a smart pass because of the difficulty of the pass and this will be key for Real Sociedad as they look to improve their creativity having only had an expected goals value of 45.84 last season, the average was 47.02.
Influence in goals
Last season Real Sociedad scored 54 goals, they had an xG-G value of -8.16 which is an indication of their clinical finishing. Real Sociedad could see a real creative improvement in the final third as Silva’s exceptional passing and Real Sociedad’s clinical finishing could lead to a rise in goals scored. Below we take a look at metrics highlighting transition and creating.
Silva ranks first on xGChain/90 which highlights his involvement in the passing transition before a shot takes place, the more influence in the transition i.e. more passes, the greater their value. He also ranks very highly on xGbuildup/90 which looks at the xG value players that don’t assist or shoot have in the shot event.
The metrics highlight Silva’s high influence in passing transitions, Silva’s 1.3 XGChain/90 involvement is evidence of how important Silva was to Manchester City and will be for Real Sociedad. His ability to retain possession and produce smart passes are key in attacking transitions and indicates that a lot of Real Sociedad transitions from mid third to final third will come through Silva.
Ødegaard doesn’t perform poorly but Silva is shown to have been involved in more transitions that lead to shots, this could improve the number of shots taken per attack by Real Sociedad as Silva helps the transition to carry on, to result in a shot.
Manchester City incredibly controlled 65.40% of ball possession last season, Real Sociedad also like to control ball possession as they averaged 57.00% ball possession. Silva is likely to be involved in more midfield third transitions at Real Sociedad, 53.0% of Ødegaard’s touches were in the mid third while 45.2% of Silva’s touches were in the mid third due to Manchester City playing a higher defensive line, which, allowed him to operate in more advanced positions.
The image below is an example of Silva’s ability to influence the match in the mid third. His progressive pass to Sterling created a goalscoring opportunity that Sterling scored from.
When Silva picked up the ball, Sterling already knew to run in behind because Silva has the ability to make this progressive pass.
Portu and Mikel Oyarzabal will look to make deep runs to receive progressive passes behind the opposition defence. Impressively, 90.78% of Silva’s 6.52 progressive passes per 90 were accurate and reiterates the opinion that he will still be able to influence threatening attacking transitions when in deeper positions as he can aide quick transitions.
The pass played by Silva is brilliantly weighted for Sterling to run onto (below) as Sterling doesn’t have to delay his run to receive the ball. This would also be classed as a deep completion because it is a non-cross path within a radius of 20 metres from the goal. Silva made 4.16 deep completions per 90 last season, William José operates best in the opposition penalty area and will thrive off these passes within or close to the area.
His high pass accuracy has been spoken about, however, he also made the most passes per 90 in the database at 67.38 per 90. Real Sociedad played at a match tempo of 16.7 last season, Silva made 1.24 passes per touch last season and this could help to increase the Real Sociedad pass tempo and cause quicker transitions between thirds to unsettle the opposition .
Silva’s half spaces
Silva often operates in half spaces close to the opposition penalty area and would often make deep off the ball runs inside of the full-backs to receive the ball in space in the penalty area to beat the offside trap. Below is an example of his deep run against Newcastle where he assisted Jesus.
Here, Silva operated on the left-hand side half space (shaded). He assisted another goal very similar to this one. He helps the team transition to the opposition penalty box by making these forward off the ball runs, he could move in the direction of the red arrow but instead moved in the direction of the blue arrow.
If he operated on the right-hand side of the pitch at Real Sociedad we may not see him make so many of these types of runs because he would have to cut inside if he were to pass the ball with his favoured left-foot, he is able to pass with his right-foot but his left is his preferred. Alguacil’s tactics may allow Silva more freedom to roam on either side of the pitch and his forward runs can create overloads in the opposition penalty area.
We now take a look at Silva’s goal output, four of his goals were inside the area and repeats the earlier point about his forward off the ball runs into the penalty area which have helped him have 7.17 touches in the opposition area per 90. Below we analyse his goal against Crystal Palace where he made a deep forward run.
Silva is seen to be operating near a half space again. His forward run is effective because it would have created space for Sterling to shoot if Silva’s run dragged James Tomkins away from Sterling. Instead Tomkins pressed Sterling which allowed Silva to receive the ball behind the defence and score from a volley.
Silva’s incredible technique aids him when in shooting positions, 38.64% of his shots were on target last season and he had a goal conversion rate of 13.64%, reasonably strong statistics given that his strengths lie in passing. This technique has also aided him in directly scoring two free-kick goals last season, Real Sociedad only scored directly from one free-kick and his set piece specialities could also help his side in scoring goals.
The player profile visual showed that Silva nor Ødegaard excelled defensively. It is evidence that Real Sociedad’s tactics can include the use of an attacking midfielder who is not strong defensively.
Silva’s success rate in aerial and ground duels is strong for someone in his position having won 59.77% of ground duels and 30.30% of his aerial duels. The limitation to this is that he competed in less duels than the median attacking midfielder shown by only making 4.99 defensive actions per 90.
Pep Guardiola opted to bench Silva in games against the best attacking sides in the Premier League as his lack of defensive contribution could be exposed. Here is an example of how the opposition can exploit David Silva’s lack of defensive contribution.
Against Arsenal in the FA Cup Final Silva was deployed as an attacking midfielder in a 4-2-3-1 formation. His side lost the ball and he is extremely slow to react, when Manchester City defend, their attacking midfielder is expected to help in defence.
Silva can’t affect the game in his current position. He is not expected to be behind the ball, however, his low defensive work rate will be highlighted as he doesn’t help to prevent the Arsenal counter-attack.
When the ball is crossed, Silva is not in picture, he could have helped to prevent the cross if he occupied the area circled, this would have allowed him to press Nicholas Pépé as he crossed the ball. He could have also swapped positions with Gundogan as Gundogan had to follow Hector Bellerin in the penalty box rather than block the cross. This lack of defensive contribution could cause an unbalance when the opposition counter-attack, a weakness of Real Sociedad as they conceded seven goals from counter-attacks last season.
This tactical analysis has provided a scout report on David Silva as his range of passing, forward off-the ball movement, contribution in transitions and shooting was analysed. We also analysed his weak defensive contribution. He is 34 but has the quality to unlock any defence with his passing and off the ball movement. We should see Real Sociedad play to these strengths this season as he builds relationships, mainly with the full-backs, wingers and strikers of the team.
In regards to Ødegaard, Real Sociedad may miss his unpredictable skills and dribbling which caused the opposition problems, however, Silva makes up for lack of skills and dribbles in world-class passing and intelligent off the ball forward movement. La Liga kicks off on the weekend of 12th September as fans await Silva’s La Liga return with anticipation.