A big game–especially in the world of CultFootball, which seems to be heavily populated by Gunners fans–took place this past Sunday in Manchester. Arsenal visited Etihad Stadium to take on the league-leading, Qatari-funded, completely stacked Manchester City. The result was a tense but exciting match, which ended 1-0 for City.
Some commentary from one of the CultFootball head honchos:
City deserved the win, though Arsenal had their chances and maybe the game would’ve tipped if Arsenal had scored first or at all. I wanted Arshavin in earlier after Walcott did nothing in the first half, only to wish the Russian had stayed at Zenit to begin with. Arsenal just don’t have any game-changers they can bring off the bench (though maybe they should’ve tried the Ox) [i.e., Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain]
The difference for Man City, not surprisingly, was a slight Spanish man named David Silva, who scored the goal in the 53rd minute (Alhough a great deal of credit also goes to “the flamboyant Italian” Mario Balotelli, who created the chance by running into acres of space on the right flank, taking the wide pass (can’t tell who provided it from midfield), squaring up Alex Song on the end of the box near the touchline–and then bursting back and in, creating just enough space to take a hard low shot that was just too difficult for Szecesny to handle–Kun Aguero got a head on the rebound, which fell to David Silva, who did well to half-volley into the open goal.)
Take a look at the highlights–not only the goal, but also two sitters that Man City flubbed (an early one by Kun Aguero, a late one when former Arsenal star Samir Nasri mishit an easy square cross just out of reach of both Balotelli and Silva); a fantastic play by Balotelli to bring down a high ball in between two Arsenal defenders while falling down and turning to get a good shot off; and Arsenal’s late chance to equalize via a curling shot by Thomas Vermalaen that Joe Hart did well to tip over the bar:
You don’t see it in the highlights, but we saw it during the telecast–a banner up in the Etihad stands emblazened with the words “Silva es magico.” Even though we’re more Gunners fans, we can’t dislike Silva. He’s a beautiful player to watch–perhaps the quintessential example of the attacking, creative midfielder who plays “in between the lines”: who drops back into midfield to pick up the ball, who provides the pass to “unlock” the opposing defense, and who often moves up into the box to score himself.
In fact, we just came across a great ESPNSoccernet column by Spanish football observer Phil Ball written in October devoted to this position–specifically on this current golden generation of players who can play that position:
Silva is another example–as if there weren’t enough already of La Liga stock–of what the Spanish call the ‘media punta‘. This is an interesting term, which translates non-literally to the English concept of the man ‘in the hole’, or the one who plays behind the striker. This player has also been called the ‘false number 9’ but that epithet gives the (false) impression that the player is nevertheless a striker. The media punta is nothing of the sort in Spain, and there is a whole doctoral thesis waiting to be written on this one. Perhaps, in years to come, someone will look back and realise that this present period in Spain was a golden age of this type of player, and that such a proliferation of talent in this position is unlikely to ever re-occur.
In fact, Silva is a player who would (have) fit right into a Wenger squad. Indeed, 5 years ago he (and/or another Spanish media punta who recently moved from Valencia to England–Juan Mata) probably would’ve ended up in north London instead of east Manchester (and west London, respectively). Just as yet another Spanish media punta moved from La Masia to Arsenal back in 2004–Cesc being the previous great media punta in England. Of course, now he’s back in Barcelona, who have he’s perhaps only the 3rd best player who plays that sort of position–behind Andres Iniesta and Lionel Messi, who just happened to be 2 of the 3 nominees for last year’s Balon d’Or (the 3rd being of course Barcelona midfielder Xavi, who plays a little deeper, scores less).
More from that Phil Ball column, specifically about Silva:
Returning to the theme of the nouveaux riches (this time in the plural), I watched Manchester City’s David Silva run riot against poor Scotland last Tuesday in Alicante. The 3-1 score did not reflect the host’s annihilation of their visitors, but Silva’s performance got me thinking about the whole Spanish scene at the moment, and why the national side is so many light years ahead of the English one, for example – despite the power and force of the Premier League. I remember seeing Silva playing for tiny Second Division Eibar back in 2005, a side to whom several famous players, Xabi Alonso among them, have been traditionally farmed out to toughen them up. As with the Lynard Skynyrd album Nuthin Fancy, such is the philosophy of Eibar FC. I think the game was against Elche, and poor Silva (I had no idea who he was) looked as if, in the famous words of my grandmother, “a good meal would stiffen him”. Skinny and frail, he was nevertheless the best player on the park, when Elche allowed him to be. It still seems incredible how far he has come, and that he has managed to adjust equally to the physical exigencies of the Premier League. He took some time to adjust, but now that he’s understood how to exploit that league’s particular limitations, it’s party time.
GettyImagesDavid Silva is establishing himself as a leadingmedia punta at home and abroad