Manchester City moved top of the Premier League table thanks to their 3-1 triumph over Arsenal despite a strange politic decision from Pep Guardiola.
One of the most crazy moves of the January transfer window saw Joao Cancelo allowed to leave Man City on loan to Bayern Munich. He’d been replaced in the starting XI by the impressive Rico Lewis but it was still a bold move, with no choice coming in.
It meant that whenever Lewis is out of form, injured, or just needs resting, Guardiola is forced to experiment. On Wednesday at the Emirates that trial was Bernardo Silva at left- back, and it didn’t work.
Guardiola has experience playing central midfielders at left-back, even winning Premier League titles with Fabian Delph playing there, and the Spaniard exemplified the former Man City man in explaining his Silva decision.
We’ve many players who can play there–Sergio (Gomez), Rico (Lewis) and now Bernardo (Silva) can, ” he told Amazon Prime before the match.
When you’re an intelligent player and can read what’s going on, like my lovely Fabian Delph and like Oleksandr (Zinchenko), you can play in other places–it’s because they’re intelligent players.
It was a familiar hybrid position for Silva, moving into central midfield whenever Man City had the ball and dropping to left-back as Arsenal attacked, which they did constantly. And that meant Silva had to go up against Saka, a battle he didn’t do well in.
Understandably, Arsenal loaded their attacking play down their right hand to specifically target Silva and it took nine minutes for the Portuguese man to get his first foul on Saka. A fairly pessimistic challenge, some Arsenal fans were calling for Anthony Taylor to show a yellow card, and indeed more came for Silva’s second foul on Saka in the 26th minute.
Two minutes latterly, Silva’s lack of protective skillful showed as he let a ball through to Saka inside the box, but the Englishman couldn’t get the ball out of his feet quick enough and his eventual pass was blocked.
By that point, Man City were 1-0 up as Kevin De Bruyne capitalised on a protective error from Takehiro Tomiyasu, reading the Japanese full-back’s more backpass previously beautifully lifting the ball over Aaron Ramsdale.