Cool head Silva keeping Manchester City on road to glory
Amid the strong characters and training-ground tensions that have surrounded Manchester City's push for the title this season, there has been no figure more detached or more outstanding than David Silva, their match-winner against Arsenal and already a candidate for player of the year.
Silva's goal on Sunday means that if City beat Stoke tomorrow they will be leaders at Christmas for the first time since 1929 and, of all their expensively-assembled squad, few can claim to have played such a key role as Silva.
Against Arsenal he came up against Robin van Persie, the other individual in the Premier League with a claim to be the form player of the season so far, and it was Silva who prevailed.
The City fans at Stamford Bridge berated Chelsea's Juan Mata for being — in their own words — a second-rate version of Silva (pictured). Harsh? Certainly, but there is no question that Silva is the pre-eminent playmaker-winger at the current time.
There is one aspect of life at City, however, that Silva says he has nothing to do with: the training-ground fights, most recently demonstrated by Micah Richards' spat with Mario Balotelli last week.
“Stuff like that you can always turn into a positive for the team,” Silva said.
“Everyone is going at it 100 per cent in training and stuff like that can happen.
“But we are very united and there is a great team spirit out on the field. I don't get involved because I am very cool-headed and calm. You have to respect everyone's character but I try to keep a back-seat view of everything and stay calm.”
If City beat Stoke they will pass Christmas Day as leaders with 44 points, the highest of any leader at that stage of the season since Christmas 2006 when Manchester United had 47 points and went on to win the league in the following May with 89 points.
Silva said that the victory over Arsenal had been “a must-win game”. He said: “I think we needed a morale and confidence-boosting victory after the defeat at Chelsea and I think this will lift us. We did well at Chelsea but didn't manage to win. We are aware that Manchester United are going to be pushing us all the way but we have to focus on ourselves.
“We have to keep on the road we have been on up to now, keep our own affairs in order and the rest will look after itself.
“At the moment it is United just behind us but others will be gathering towards the end of the season.
“To keep the gap as it is we have to keep winning our games.”