It is often a mark of a good footballer player that they can take a match and turn it on its head. In Manchester City’s recent trip to Stamford Bridge, their Belgian maestro Kevin De Bruyne did just that. The game looked destined to stay deadlocked with 23 minutes remaining before De Bruyne showed why he is the best player in the country right now. A quick one-two with David Silva and De Bruyne burst into the Chelsea box, finishing past a helpless Thibaut Courtois. The game finished 1-0 and Manchester City retained their place at the top of the Premier League table with their cross-city rivals Manchester United.
Yesterday, De Bruyne showcased his brilliance again with his performance at home to stoke. He led the way in the 7-2 thrashing of Stoke City and his slick, innovative, forward passing bamboozled Stoke’s defence. Assisting two of the seven goals, he already has six assists in eight Premier League games this season.
The plaudits came thick and fast. Mark Hughes described him as ‘head and shoulders’ above anyone else in the Premier League. He went on:
At 3-2 we were certainly back in the game but players like De Bruyne see those situations and then they just grab the initiative, say this is unacceptable and take the game away from you by the quality of their play. We are not the first to come here and get turned over.
De Bruyne’s teammate Gabriel Jesus went even further in his praise, describing him as ‘one of the best players in the world. ‘His quality is outstanding as an individual out on the pitch,’ he continued. ‘But it’s the way that he makes that work for the whole team, and connects with the other players, that makes him special.’
For many Premier League fans, the often-unassuming Kevin De Bruyne, is fast becoming the best player in the Premier League if not the world. RealSport give some explanation as to how the Belgian midfielder made the step from Chelsea reject to Ballon d’Or nominee.
The Master of Creation
Kevin De Bruyne’s brilliance stems from his capacity to create goals. Since he arrived at City in the summer before the 2015/16 season, he has recorded more Premier League assists (32) than any other player. Across his wider City career to date, he has manufactured a groundbreaking assist total of 43 and a goal tally of 25 in 7,873 minutes, meaning that the Belgian has been involved in a goal every 115 minutes.
De Bruyne’s specific talents, though, do not always show up within the metrics which are traditionally used to analyse player success. Where goals and assists may offer a useful shorthand comparison between players, De Bruyne’s genius is that he is fundamental to his team’s transitions between areas on the pitch, often playing the pass before the assist or even the pass before that – both of which can have a huge impact on the play.
Beyond his productive capacity for his teammates, De Bruyne has also played a part in fashioning goals for himself this season. In City’s Champions League group stage tie at home against Shakhtar Donetsk, City made an uncharacteristically poor first-half performance before De Bruyne sparked City into life. When David Silva rolled the ball out to him, De Bruyne took one touch, raised his head and stroked the ball home into the top right-hand corner.
A Player like no other
One of the reasons for Guardiola’s recent success at Manchester City is the direct result of a squad development which allows Guardiola to interchange his players throughout the season. Central to this principle of rotation is the ability to switch like-for-like players whilst retaining form. For example, in the City squad, David Silva can be swapped for Bernardo Silva as the playmaker, Gabriel Jesus can sub in for Aguero as the goal-scorer, and there are a host of wing backs who can be moved around at will. There is no-one in the Premier League let alone City’s team, though, who can fill the boots of the game changer De Bruyne and it is this uniqueness that sets the Belgian out on his own.
Whilst some may argue Christian Eriksen, Dele Alli, Paul Pogba or Eden Hazard all have the similar ability to take a game by the scruff of its neck and to devastating effect, not one of them can do it with De Bruyne’s level consistency at every level.
In such a competitive league and where the best sides can fall to shock results against the smaller clubs, it is paramount to have a player who can have the consistency to perform especially when others aren’t. There aren’t many players around the world who can. Yet time after time, De Bruyne does it all by himself.
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