Kevin de Bruyne produced a masterclass against Arsenal on Sunday afternoon with a brace as Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City ended any hope of Freddie Ljungberg getting the Arsenal job on a permanent basis. The Gunners lacked creativity but perhaps what’s more worrying is their defensive fragilities that have been evident for some time now.
Although it’s difficult to pinpoint Manchester City’s exact formation, De Bruyne started in his favoured, advanced role which caused Arsenal problems from the first whistle. Instead of playing alongside Rodrigo in a double-pivot, limiting his creativity, the Belgium international often took up a position on the right, ahead of Kyle Walker.
De Bruyne was given creative freedom and every time the playmaker ran at the Arsenal defence, it spread panic across their back four. It took Manchester City just 90 seconds to take the lead at the Emirates, De Bruyne typically ghosted his way into the penalty area unmarked, guiding Gabriel Jesus’s cross first time into the roof of Bernd Leno’s net to the dismay of Arsenal fans.
Over the course of the 90 minutes, had it not have been for the German between the posts for Arsenal, Manchester City could have been heading back up north with seven or eight goals, it was that much of a dominating performance from Guardiola’s side.
After giving City the lead, De Bruyne turned provider after Raheem Sterling doubled the lead after 15 minutes. Arsenal’s inability to press the ball high up the pitch effectively was their downfall for City’s second. De Bruyne linked with Jesus before Ainsley Maitland-Niles and Calum Chambers stood off, allowing the Belgian to get his cross in, finding Sterling unmarked at the far post to give City an easy 2-0 lead.
Right foot, left foot, De Bruyne really can do it all. He added Manchester City’s third five minutes before the break with a superbly struck left footed finish which curled into the bottom corner. The Belgian was then denied his hat-trick by Leno which an exceptional save, pushing De Bruyne’s 25-yard effort onto the bar.
By the break, City already had the game won. There was no coming back from this for Arsenal. Guardiola got his tactics spot on but you can’t blame Ljungberg for this defeat. He’s doing the best he can, with the squad he can, whilst the situation he’s in doesn’t make his honeymoon period any better.
There’s no doubt that De Bruyne’s favoured position is in an attacking role and Manchester City’s 3-0 win at the Emirates proved that. Guardiola’s plan was to get De Bruyne into space and when he found that, he thrived. De Bruyne had five shots, four of which were on target whilst having three key passes, according to Whoscored.
We see De Bruyne perform to a high standard time and time again. He can play in any midfield position and he’s certainly making a claim for the best midfield in world football at the minute. There’s barely anyone who can compete to the same standard as De Bruyne on a consistent basis as the Belgian can.
The performance that De Bruyne put in is exactly the one Arsenal fans expect of Mesut Ozil. The Belgian’s heart and desire to put his all into a performance is one that Arsenal supporters can only dream of at the minute from their No. 10.
Sky Sports pundit Jamie Carragher said after the game: “People wonder at time why we are too ‘hard’ on Mesut Ozil. This is what you want to see, a performance this this [from Kevin de Bruyne]. Not every time you play, that is impossible but in big games. Look at the difference Kevin de Bruyne has made here.”
Only a few years ago, Ozil was considered as one of the best playmakers in football. But there’s a new king now and that’s De Bruyne. Everything he does just oozes class. He’s enjoying his football under Guardiola and that’s evident. Manchester City must be at their best if they want to challenge for the Champions League and Kevin de Bruyne will be key to any success they have this season.
Joining Manchester City in 2015 for £70 million, De Bruyne has cemented himself as one of the Premier League’s greatest midfielders. In 132 Premier League games, the Belgian has scored 27 and assisted 55 goals, putting him at the very top and at just 28, he could very well be a Ballon d’Or winner during his career.
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