History in football, as in life, has a habit of repeating itself. There is nothing new under heaven sometimes and the situation of replacing a midfield great is a familiar tale.
The impending departure of David Silva from Manchester City this summer evokes memories of a similar exit from Arsenal some 15 years earlier. Patrick Vieira may not have been the same type of midfielder, but the comparison and move to replace such an influential player is very similar.
Silky Spanish pass-master Silva and French powerhouse Vieira leave and left the Etihad and Highbury as respective club captains. Both won the World Cup and Euros while playing their weekly football in the Premier League and achieved something unprecedented in the modern English game.
Whereas Vieira led the Gunners’ celebrated Invincibles vintage under Arsene Wenger, Silva helped Pep Guardiola and City to the domestic treble of league, Carabao Cup and FA Cup in 2019. It’s a mere footnote these two footballers actually lined up together in Sky Blues shirts during the 2010-11 campaign.
The comparison between then with Vieira at Arsenal and now with Silva leaving City feels apt. In terms of maintaining the parallel, what followed doesn’t bear thinking about as the Gunners haven’t won the title since. There’s no suggestion that Man City will fall away in the future, but they are certainly in need of renewal if they are to live up to the familiar prominent position in the Premier League betting they usually occupy every season.
What role Etihad academy product Phil Foden has in that will be very interesting, because he could be the Cesc Fabregas of City to draw out the comparison with Arsenal further. The then teenage talent was already with the Gunners and blooded in the first team, even playing with Vieira in the engine room during the season before he left for Juventus.
Wenger placed faith in Fabregas, as part of a shift in focus to giving youth – albeit from overseas – a chance. Guardiola has taken time with Foden and isn’t rushing him into the spotlight. Far from being thrust center stage, the England prospect has had a gradual integration into Man City’s first team.
That may be kicked up a notch once Silva has gone. It’s not as though City don’t have options. You could even argue Silva hasn’t had to be as influential in the final years of his decade at the Etihad because of brilliant Belgium international Kevin De Bruyne and Portuguese namesake Bernardo Silva.
David Silva is Man City’s most decorated and longest-serving member of the senior squad. Not even star striker Sergio Aguero can match his trophy haul, as he joined the summer after the 2011 FA Cup final in which substitute Vieira just so happened to replace Silva in stoppage time.
Stepping into the shoes of serial winners is tough, but that is what Fabregas had to do at Arsenal and then in arguably even more difficult situations at Barcelona and Chelsea. Foden will certainly have fulfilled his potential if he proves to be as big a hit taking the torch from Silva at the Etihad moving forward.