Manchester City’s Kevin de Bruyne has been a key figure in the team’s success this season, with nine assists in the league. The Manchester City striker, who has already made nine league assists, is at his best in Josep Guardiola’s side when he travels to Liverpool on Sunday (5.30pm). The presence of Erling Haaland is no small part of the reason.
However, he is no longer the focus of attention at Manchester City. Kevin De Bruyne has gladly left the spotlight to Erling Haaland. But that doesn’t stop him from shining. Quite the contrary. The Belgian is accustomed to setting the highest standards. But he is well on his way to doing even better. You can see it in his performance on the field. It also shows in the numbers. Nine assists in nine games in a league as demanding as the Premier League is unheard of. Even for a genius of his calibre.
The decisive pass is his thing. It’s nothing new. De Bruyne has already set the record books alight in this area. He has made 20 in two different seasons, one at Wolfsburg (2014-15), the other at Manchester City (2019-20). In fact, he has just overtaken David Silva to become the best passer in the history of the Mancunian club (94). The Belgian started off on an exceptional footing. At this rate, he will smash the record for assists in a season that he himself set just over two years ago.
HIS IDEAL RECORD
The arrival of Erling Haaland is no stranger to the phenomenon. It has given Manchester City one of the best finishers on the planet and provided De Bruyne with the ideal complement to convert his passes. It has also given him the ideal complement to convert his chances, and above all it has allowed him to play in his ideal position, which was not necessarily the case last season. City needed a point, mainly because Sergio Aguero had started to decline,” said eurosport.co.uk journalist Ben Snowball. De Bruyne has taken on much of that burden. Even though he finished as the club’s top scorer last season (15 goals), he was playing in a much more advanced position than City wanted.”
A hair lower, but close to Haaland with plenty of freedom of movement across the pitch, De Bruyne has found his preferred area of action and the prerogatives that go with it. His greatest strength is delivering assists,” said Ben Snowball. It’s so obvious now that Haaland has arrived. He used to send bright passes into the box that could be wasted. But that’s not happening this season. One of Haaland’s goals against Manchester United is a perfect example. In previous seasons, that opportunity would have been missed.”
“IF YOU STOPPED DE BRUYNE, YOU STOPPED CITY”
But Haaland’s contribution is not limited to converting De Bruyne’s offerings into goals. The Norwegian focuses the attention of opposing defences so much that he frees up space for his teammates. This benefits the Belgian, as in the English champions’ second goal against Southampton last week (4-0). With a start, a call from Haaland that monopolised two defenders and left Phil Foden isolated on the left. The kind of mistake you don’t make when faced with a passer of the calibre of De Bruyne, who found the Englishman perfectly for the breakthrough goal.
This is precisely what makes the Belgian so strong, perhaps more than ever. Because he has not had such an ideal configuration to express his creative talent. “Before, if you stopped De Bruyne, you had a great chance of stopping City,” Ben Snowball summarised. That’s not the case anymore. Teams also have to keep an eye on Haaland and Foden, allowing De Bruyne more time and space to control the midfield and play his passes that pierce the opposition defence.”
“IF HE DOES IT IN THE BIG GAMES…”
That’s the whole problem for Manchester City’s opponents. Haaland is the lethal weapon but the danger comes from everywhere. And De Bruyne is the right man to orchestrate it all. He was already one of the best in the world at it, but the presence of the Norwegian has accentuated the phenomenon. KDB no longer monopolises the attention and that only makes him more dangerous. De Bruyne probably doesn’t need to be as good as he was in previous years,” says Ben Snowball. But he can finally do what he does best: create chances. If he does that in the big games, in the big moments, then for sure he’s on his best season.”
It is still too early to say that De Bruyne is stronger than ever. But the Belgian could hardly have laid out a more regal path to impose that statement. He has always been City’s strong man and Haaland’s arrival has only enhanced him further. That’s the impression you get from his dazzling start to the season. It is the impression that he will continue to build on until the end to lead City to the top. And to find the supreme consecration that his creative genius has been calling for for so long.