Bernardo Silva: What the hell happened?

Paul Macdonald
Paul Macdonald Updated: 19 May 2021 16:43 CEST 4 min read
Bernardo Silva: What the hell happened?

Two years ago, Bernardo Silva was legitimately in the running for the Premier League player of the year.

The £50m signing from Monaco looked to be an immense piece of business, impressing each and every week and having a complete grasp of Pep Guardiola’s approach to the game.

But the drop-off in statistics of the 26-year-old is about as stark as you could ever wish to see. Silva’s had his off-field issues, such as his racism ban from the FA regarding a message to team-mate Benjamin Mendy. And with Kevin De Bruyne’s intermittent injuries in the 2018/19 season, Silva stepped up in his team-mate’s absence. But that player is, quite simply, nowhere to be seen.

It seems clear that something has happened. He was being relied upon less by Guardiola even when he form was better, but at the moment his numbers are at rock bottom, as is, seemingly, his confidence.

From 2018/19 to 2020/21 the regressions across all relevant statistics can’t be ignored.

Bernardo Silva, statistical regression

Stat18/1919/2020/21
Goals P900.260.180.04
Assists P900.280.250.04
xG P900.190.180.13
xA P900.430.380.17
Key Pass P901.381.220.67
Shots P901.511.270.71
Dribbles P903.42.41.8
Bernardo Silva, All Comps

The numbers are straightforward. All the things he was doing well in previous seasons have suffered a severe drop-off. Just a single goal and assist this season represents a goal contribution P90 of 0.08 – two years ago it was 0.54. He’s shooting less, making less key passes and not dribbling with the ball as much.

It’s a head-scratcher. It’s true that City under Guardiola this season have a renewed focus on the defensive transition and are looking to concede less. Pep was a solid defensive foundation and while they are scoring less as a team, they are conceding far less, too.

But it’s not like Silva’s defensive contributions are getting any better. In fact, all of those are worse, too.

Bernardo Silva, defensive contributions

As you can see, he’s contributing much less in all areas of winning the ball back too. Both his attacking and defensive challenges attempted and won are down. As are recoveries and interceptions. In fact it’s increasingly difficult to identify anything positive from Silva in matches and, crucially, for Guardiola to justify his position.

Stat18/1919/2020/21
Challenge Won P905.13.73.2
Interceptions P9032.31.4
Recoveries P902.71.71.4
Tackles P903.72.11.9
Bernardo Silva, all Comps

With the likes of Foden and Torres – both of whom have infinitely superior statistics across the board – being rotated with Silva both men would be justified in asking where their minutes are being squandered.

Perhaps Silva’s previous rate was simply unsustainable. He may well improve to an average level this season from this bad start. But he’s a long way off the player who made the 30-man Ballon d’Or shortlist just fifteen months ago.