Neil Humphreys: David Silva gives Man City the extra sparkle
Pep Guardiola's rivals have no one like the Spanish master
When Liverpool missed out on the English Premier League title last season, the difference between success and failure was just a point.
Or maybe, it was just a David Silva.
|Harry Wilson 45+3||Sergio Aguero 15, 64, Raheem Sterling 43|
From front to back, the Reds have no discernible weaknesses. But Manchester City have something extra. They have Silva.
Last night, the champions rarely excelled against Bournemouth, but they had enough to stroll to a 3-1 victory. They had Silva.
It has become customary, almost cliched, to emphasise that mythical "No.10" that divided English football's two finest clubs last season, that unpredictable pickpocket who could open the toughest locks.
Liverpool had a player of that calibre in Philippe Coutinho, but the Reds sold him and morphed into European champions, so the "missing No.10" analysis is slightly simplistic.
But watching Silva dance away from markers, pick up a couple of assists and dominate City's attacking play with a glorious economy of effort, it's impossible to overstate his importance.
Sergio Aguero scored twice, but the real conjurer was just behind, killing off another contest with minimal fuss.
Indeed, the first half began with the focus on Silva, who was handed the armband to celebrate his 400th appearance, and the game was graced with the kind of exquisite goal that has defined Silva's career.
Only it wasn't the 33-year-old Spaniard. It was a Welsh wonder on loan at Bournemouth.
In first-half stoppage time, Harry Wilson whipped in a free-kick that found the top corner after being stolen from a PlayStation game.
The winger is on loan from Liverpool and Juergen Klopp must have joined the rest of the world in separating bum from seat in a moment of striking perfection.
Wilson only came on late in the half to replace the injured Charlie Daniels, but the substitute sent away his teammates before sending his whipped strike past Ederson.
In terms of distance, disguise and execution, there won't be a better free-kick all season. Klopp must be contemplating bringing his boy home.
Pep Guardiola, on the other hand, must eventually contemplate bringing in a replacement for the indefatigable Silva.
The Spaniard, who had announced that this would be his last season with City, was involved in their opener, when Sergio Aguero smartly tucked away a loose ball in the 15th minute. But Silva truly orchestrated the second.
In the 43rd minute, Manchester's peerless maestro spun on a penny and released a delightfully weighted ball into Raheem Sterling's path, all in one fluid, elegant movement.
Sterling's speed and precision ensured his fifth EPL goal in three games, reassuring his early credentials for Player of the Season.
This campaign increasingly feels like a rubber-stamping exercise of the Englishman's greatness.
But another emerging youngster, Wilson, kept the plucky Cherries in the contest with his remarkable free-kick. But the hosts didn't have an incorrigible maverick like Silva.
On top of City's embarrassment of riches, the champions also boast the enviable habit of lashing out when they seem cornered, like a sneaky cobra.
Bournemouth were comfortable in the second half. City were purportedly vulnerable.
So Silva slipped into the box and wriggled around a couple of challenges, as if operating on a different gear to those around him.
As he prodded the ball forward, Aguero arrived to hammer home his second in the 64th minute.
That goal was the Argentine's 400th for club and country - with 235 of those coming for Manchester City - according to Opta, which seemed fitting on the same day his illustrious teammate made his 400th City appearance.
Aguero remains relentless, but City are blessed with goal-scorers across the pitch. They have no one else quite like Silva.
But nor does anyone else in the EPL.
And their loss will continue to be City's gain.