Transfer deadline day is confusing enough at the best of times, but the deals that somehow go on past 11pm can end up shrouded in mystery. That can certainly be said for Leicester City’s sale of Danny Drinkwater and pursuit of Adrien Silva, who we’re pretty sure they did sign in the end (he’s in the 25 man squad, after all).
So now that he’s on board, what can we expect to see from the Portuguese international midfielder?
Effort and energy
This isn’t particularly uncommon in Leicester. In fact, since the Drinkwater and Kanté duo were first put together, it’s been the absolute minimum requirement to find a place in the Foxes midfield.
Adrien certainly does qualify there. He’s a very hard working player, willing to cover whatever ground is necessary to get the defensive end of his job done. He’s also a very accomplished tackler, so he’ll get the job done once he gets there too.
Adrien Silva won more tackles (84) than any other Sporting CP player in the league last season.— Squawka Football (@Squawka) September 1, 2017
Added steel. pic.twitter.com/OMvM1pSoFg
As you would expect from a man with 168 appearances for Sporting and 20 more for Portugal, almost exclusively in central midfield, the 28 year old is a capable passer. He was in the top 10 for passes completed in the Portuguese Primera Liga last year, with a healthy completion percentage in 80s.
Importantly for the Foxes and their fast paced, counter attacking style, he isn’t just padding those numbers with sideways and backwards passes. According to Squawka, about 65% of his passes last year went forwards, which is pretty much in line with our midfielders over the last couple of years.
At 28 years old Adrien should be in his footballing prime right now and, much like Vicente Iborra earlier in the summer, arrives as the captain of his previous club. He spent the last four years as a key regular for Sporting, as they regularly finished in the top three.
While he wasn't able to achieve the league championship that we did in that time, but their consistent league performance means he has plenty of experience in both the Champions League and Europa League.
The Portuguese national team also experienced his ability in knockout football; after being left out for the group games in Euro 2016, the defensive midfielder was recalled for the last 16 tie and kept his place throughout as Portugal went on to win the tournament.
Simply put, he isn’t Danny Drinkwater. That’s not necessarily to say he’s not a better player, which many people believe, but he’s not the same player.
For me, the defining characteristic of Drinkwater’s tenure in the Foxes’ midfield is his ability to get on the ball, and his teammates’ desire to look for him and allow him to run the play. Even when he was struggling for fitness at times last year, he almost always led the side in touches. For Sporting, that wasn't Adrien Silva, it was William Carvalho. He may be able to take on that role, but he’s never shown it.
842 - Since Aug 2015, only Cesc Fabregas (878) has made more passes into the final third of the pitch than Danny Drinkwater (842). Forward. pic.twitter.com/pTIX6k8kiG— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) August 31, 2017
The other obvious standout for Drinkwater was his ability to hit long balls over the top, usually into the path of a speeding Jamie Vardy. Over the last couple of years, Adrien has attempted less than half as many long balls per game than Drinky.
Adrien Silva is a high quality central midfielder. His main strengths are his tackling and short passing, and he covers enough ground to impose himself on the game with those attributes.
Adrien Silva: Statistically calculated WhoScored strengths, weaknesses and style of play pic.twitter.com/Pyit2rw1oJ— WhoScored.com (@WhoScored) July 4, 2017
While Sporting’s style of play is not entirely dissimilar to Leicester’s, the role he was asked to play is not the same one occupied by Danny Drinkwater, the man he was presumably brought in to replace.
Nonetheless, not having been asked to control the game or play long passes (since Sporting had no Jamie Vardy) doesn't mean he’s not able to necessarily, just that we don't know for now. I expect we’ll find out.
The best case scenario is that he’s a slight upgrade on Drinkwater, filling his role in the system nicely and at a profit. Worst (likely) case is that he’s still a good player, but the team will have to adapt slightly to cover for the loss of Drinkwater.
Considering we were going to have to do that anyway, it looks like a good move to me.