David Silva

At 34, what type of David Silva have Real Sociedad signed?

The now-legendary playmaker still has so much more to give despite his Premier League career being over

1:00pm on Tuesday 1st September 2020
Paul Macdonald

David Silva departed the Premier League after 10 years and, for some, it's the end of one of the best we've ever seen in England

That argument is for another day. The one we had was whether Silva still much more to give. He's only 34. There are a lot of miles on the clock (over 800 top-level games since 2004), sure, but it was a relief when he said he was staying in a top-five league when he joined Real Sociedad.

So what type of Silva are La Real getting as he entered the final stages of his career?

David Silva, 17/18-19/20

I think we need to address recency bias before we move forward; in matches against Burnley, Newcastle and Bournemouth post-restart he was scintillating, providing a post-credits scene at the end of an Oscar-winning film.

Mmaybe those displays, with the knowledge of his departure, have tinted the rose spectacles a little. But let's look at his data across the last three seasons to see if his brilliance has lessened.

Goals + Assists + xG + xA

Non-Pen Goal P900.330.220.29
Assist P900.410.300.49
Expected Goals P900.340.30.32
Expected Assists P900.330.380.39

Silva started only 22 Premier League matches from a possible 38 (57.8%) in 2019/20, down on 28 in both 18/19 and 17/18 (73.6%). Pep has probably the most complete set of playmakers he's ever had and knowing that Silva was leaving probably impacted his selection, particularly with Phil Foden establishing himself further.

But Silva's time spent on the pitch is largely in line with the extremely high standards we would expect. There is unquestionably a decision from Guardiola to utilise him much more often at home (six of his last seven starts have been at the Etihad) and perhaps not utilise him as much against the more threatening attacking teams away; he didn't feature at all in the reverse fixture against Liverpool, Manchester United, Arsenal, Wolves or Leicester, and only came off the bench, to no avail, against Chelsea last month.

But in the games where defences sit deep and require unlocking, Silva is still in a class of his own. His non-penalty goals P90 and assists P90, alongside his corresponding xG and xA are pretty much in line with his last two campaigns, and this season, in terms of assists at least, exceeds them.

Silva is 35 next January but he is still more than capable of running games against defensive teams for a unit that circulates the ball and craves incisive passing. Real Sociedad had Martin Odegaard operating in that position last season and his return to Real Madrid leaves a ready-made gap for a creator like Silva to slot into.

Big Chances, Key Passes, Comp Dribbles

Big Chances Created141611
Key Pass P902.32.72.5
Comp Dribbles P901.41.21.4

Again, Silva's chance creation hasn't dropped off too much. He played less minutes in 2019/20 and so his 11 Big Chances Created are pretty much where we would expect them to be, while his Key Passes remain in a very good place.

He's surrounded by more creative players than ever, with Kevin De Bruyne, Bernardo Silva and the emerging Foden in and around his spaces. But Silva's space creation, in-game awareness and familiarity with a system such as this does mean that City will definitely miss his input. His numbers will be difficult for anyone to replicate and La Real will be hoping that some of that guile, with the likes of Mikel Oyarzabal ahead of him, can be put to good use.

Passes, % Completion, Final Third Passes

% Completion89%88%89%
Final Third Passes40.135.535.2

This is perhaps the area where Silva's all-round impact has lessened slightly. He isn't so much the centrepiece of the build-up play he once was, with Rodri (91.1 P90) alongside him making the most passes of any player in the Premier League this season, while he's fallen by about 16 passes P90 in two years.

But his pass completion is as high as ever, while his final third passes are as high as last season. He still jumps on the carousel to circulate the ball and contributes in a way that few in the past decade anywhere in Europe can.

34 yrs - M, AM (C) - Man City
JavaScript chart by amChartsLDefendingCreativePassingAttackingShootingDecisiveAerialsPhysical10-10-5051015100%
Played matches
Shots P90
Passes completed P90
Successful passing %
AVG Rating

Silva's had tough times of late, with son Mateo being born prematurely in early 2018 meaning he was travelling back to Spain regularly during that period. He has been true to his word that 10 years at City was always his target.

He has managed to remain relatively injury-free in his latter years, getting over the sporadic ankle problems from earlier in his career and a return to La Liga with a side whose style is very much suited to his technique is a smart move.

There's renewed desire to see Silva at his best again and hope that, like former International team-mate Santi Cazorla at Villarreal, he can enjoy a late renaissance.

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