It has been a difficult start to the new season for Manchester City as the team has won just two of the first five league games of the season. Beyond the results, the team’s level of performance has not been up to per. Having set high standards for playing some of the best football at club level in the last three seasons, average performances have become unacceptable.
Bernardo Silva was one of the key performers in the 2018/19 campaign that saw the team make a clean sweep of domestic trophies in England. He netted seven times with the same number of assists in the Premier League to help the team win back-to-back titles. Pep Guardiola considered him his player of the season.
But the 26-year-old has struggled to replicate that form since.
For a player that moved to the Etihad Stadium with much promise having starred for Monaco in the French Ligue 1, much more is expected. But he is yet to reach his personal best for the Principality side where he scored eight times and provided nine assists in the 2016/17 campaign.
The attacking midfielder is yet to register a goal or assist this term after three appearances as the Blues struggle to produce in front of goal.
The Portuguese recognises the need for players to step up at a time like this as he revealed in a recent interview.
“The truth is that we haven’t started the season well at all, we have to do a lot better than two Premier League games won out of five,” Silva told L’Equipe .
“It’s true that we had a lot of injuries, and players who get injured again and again. But that can’t be an excuse with the team we have.
“I don’t have a good explanation, we have to talk among ourselves in the team, with the coach, because if we want to win a title this season, something must be changed.
“We have the impression of a team that lacks punch, taking offensive responsibilities. All the teams know how to play. And we find ourselves against teams that do not want the ball, they are only waiting for the counter. At the start of the season, we didn’t manage to be dangerous, to create a lot of chances, or to be effective.”
While holding the whole team accountable, he is not afraid to put himself in the firing line as one of those that have failed to deliver the goods in recent times.
“It turned out that it was not a very good season for us, and neither for me personally. We have a very complete squad, with a lot of world-class players and competition,” Silva said.
“On the right, I have Riyad [Mahrez] and Ferran Torres, even Raheem Sterling. In the middle, I had David Silva, [Ilkay] Gundogan and Kevin De Bruyne. But of course I have to do better this season.
In a season that promises to be tough as far as the title race is concerned, Guardiola will need to find solutions to the many problems being faced. Clearly, injuries and fatigue have dealt an unexpected blow to the side. But the Blues are not the only ones dealing with these.
It does sometimes appear the manager is complaining too much about the situation. It could be more productive to focus on finding solutions rather than constantly drumming it into your players ears that they are tired and worn out.
It’s so bad Marseille coach Andre Villas-Boas used Guardiola’s comments on his players’ tiredness as the basis for his game plan. The former Chelsea gaffer revealed that in his pre-match conference ahead of the Champions League meeting between the two sides. It’s like giving the opponent a psychological edge before the game begins.
The exit of players like David Silva and Leroy Sane should be viewed as an opportunity for others like Bernardo, Phil Foden and new boy Ferran Torres to step up. The team still boasts of some of the best players in the world. There are few, if any, sides in Europe at the moment that can boast of being better than City.
With the right motivation and coaching this group of players can do big things, despite the obstacles. Mankind’s greatest achievements have followed that template, after all. And so Guardiola must set his sights on taking City to the pinnacle of Europe where we belong.
“And that’s the bottom line,” as noted wrestling legend, Stone Cold Steve Austin would say.