Sane return can rediscover Bernardo Silva's best form at Man City

Sane return can rediscover Bernardo Silva's best form at Man City

All of the focus this season has been the impact of Aymeric Laporte's injury on the Manchester City defence, but it is fair to say another injury has had an equally disruptive impact.

With Leroy Sane injured during the Community Shield win over Liverpool, he has not played a minute this season. His absence, just like Laporte's, has disrupted Pep Guardiola's side with players forced out of position as a result.

Sane was close to a return to action before the season was halted, and will presumably be ready and fit to return when City next play. On the face of it, City have coped well with the German's absence, but his return to action - whenever that is - will show how much the attack needs Sane in it.

Just as Fernandinho was dragged back into defence to deputise for Laporte, Sane has needed cover of his own. Some of that has come from an improved Riyad Mahrez, while Gabriel Jesus has played out wide on occasion. More significantly, though, Bernardo Silva has been the player to fill in on occasion.

Last season, when Bernardo won Player of the Year for his performances, he predominantly played centrally or on the right. This season, the Portuguese has split his time across the front line, including two games in an experimental centre-forward position.

Just a quick look at Bernardo's output for the season shows that this frequent changing of role has affected his goals and assist record - even if there has been far more to his game than just creating scoring opportunities.

In 2018/19, Bernardo scored 13 goals and registered 13 assists in 51 appearances in all competitions. Only one of those games came from the left wing, with most of his goal contributions coming from a central position.

Compare that to this season, where Bernardo has played five games on the left and two up front, as well as more changing between central midfield and the right wing. It's fair to say he's been Pep Guardiola's utility man to cover for various injuries, and he's not been able to reach the heights of last season. His overall record so far is seven goals and eight assists in 37 appearances.

It's not been a regressive season for Bernardo, though, as Sane's absence has provided him with new tactical responsibilities to his game that have proved so important to Guardiola on the big occasions. He might have provided fewer goals and assists, but his contribution to the team has never slipped.

Still, when Sane returns, there might be opportunity for Bernardo to return to his preferred central position. As well as benefitting Bernardo, it would also restore a bit of balance to the midfield. With David Silva set to leave City, Bernardo can stake his claim to become Kevin de Bruyne's first-choice partner going into next season, fresh with a better understanding of how Guardiola wants his side to play.

With Phil Foden pushing him for that starting spot, De Bruyne at the top of his game, and Sane back to provide an outlet, Bernardo could have all the conditions to be even better than he was in 2018/19.

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