How will Manchester City fare without Kevin De Bruyne?
Written by: Rohan Philip
The best Manchester City player last season will not feature at least till November 2018.
Following yet another rousing preseason, Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City who rampaged their way to the Premier League title last season, began the season as firm favourites to challenge at the very top of the English top flight as well as in the Cup and European competitions.
Kevin De Bruyne was instrumental in Guardiola’s and Manchester City’s success in the league, operating from his slightly deeper midfield role. The Belgian was deployed as a link from defensive midfield to the attacking positions higher up the pitch, a role that he executed to perfection. He finished the season just behind Liverpool’s Mo Salah in the race for the PFA Player of the season award.
De Bruyne followed up his Premier League success with stellar performances at the World Cup in Russia with Belgium. As a result of his exertions at the quadrennial competition, the 27-year-old was excused from his side’s preseason games as well as the Community Shield game versus Chelsea.
Disaster struck for De Bruyne and Manchester City when their player of the season suffered a lateral collateral ligament lesion in his right knee in training on the 15th of August, ruling him out of action for a minimum of three months, leaving the Cityzens without one of their most influential players.
However, if any team is equipped to face the loss of a talisman, it is Manchester City. The Cityzens splashed out the cash to complete the signing of Riyad Mahrez from Leicester City early in the transfer window, in a move that looked to be purely one of luxury rather than of necessity at the time. However, that is not the case currently.
The addition of Mahrez in the squad, gives City genuine width on the right-hand side and allows for the more centrally minded, Barnardo Silva to take up a position similar to the one De Bruyne holds in the side. The combination worked wonders in the Community Shield match against Chelsea. Silva came into his own in a Man City shirt and exploited the spaces created by Mahrez.
Guardiola has yet another ace up his sleeve in the form of a member of City’s academy graduates, Phil Foden, who has impressed every time he has pulled on the sky-blue shirt. While the youngster may not be anywhere near the level of his Belgian teammate, but he does have the tenacity and the will to stake his claim for a first-team spot in the absence of the 27-year-old.
Alternatively, Guardiola could avoid replacing his talisman with a like for like change and alter his system to suit the players he has at his disposal with a more traditional 4-2-3-1 formation. Ilkay Gundogan can take up a deeper midfield role from where he can control the tempo of the game.
No player should be irreplaceable to a side, but Kevin De Bruyne comes as close as it gets for City. There is no doubt that City is still a formidable outfit but what effect the loss of the Belgian will have on the side remains to be seen.
Published: Sun Aug 19, 2018 04:25 PM IST