Kevin de Bruyne has slowly established himself as a talisman for both his club and his country. If you would have told me this would have happened after Chelsea sold him for peanuts to Wolfsburg a few years ago.
Frankly I’d have told you to quit playing Football Manager so much.
But what makes the mercurial Belgian tick and why is he so pivotal to how Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City play. Well, that’s what we’re going to find out and we’ll make this as easy as possible so that you as a reader are able to understand him well.
First let’s start with a statistical look towards de Bruyne this season. The Belgian in 19/20 season played 28 games in the league at the time of writing contributing to 8 goals and 16 assists in the Premier League.
He recently said in an interview with the Athletic, that he was gunning for Thierry Henry’s assist record and he even joked around with the Frenchman on international duty saying “I’m coming for you”. Its hard to see him not breaking it if the season resumes considering how he’s played the last few years.
Kevin de Bruyne incapsulates everything you’d want in your attacking midfielder. He not only produces quality chances for his team mates but takes shots from dangerous positions and situations himself
According to this shot radar by Understat, Kevin de Bruyne has taken the vast majority of his shots from central areas from open play taking a walloping 77 shots so far in his season. Out of which 22 were taken from his left foot and 54 from his right.
The dots on the shot map signify the quality of the shot. The bigger the dots the higher the quality of the shot. The evidence of him being a fantastic long-distance shooter is exemplified by scoring goals from such low-quality shots, an admirable quality
It can also be statistically argued that in 19/20 season Kevin de Bruyne has been ‘the complete package’ as shown in the radar below:
His contributions in all phases of play have been nothing short of outstanding. The radar is read in the following ways for those that don’t understand
- Passes leading to shot is around 3.82 per game
- Expected goals off shots is around 0.67 per game
- Total possession involvement is 1.21 per game
- Involvement in team build up is 0.66 per game
- Expected goals he’s contributing to per 90 is 0.22 per game
These are the signs of not just a talisman but a complete modern attacking midfielder with the right amount of athleticism, tactical understanding, technical quality and the ability to play multiple roles in a single team.
Now for how he plays and what sets him apart from his peers
Style of Play:
To understand how Kevin de Bruyne plays you have to first get an understanding how Pep Guardiola sets up his Manchester City side. All of Pep’s sides have one aspect in common, their football is very robotic in nature.
In every game, you’ll see repeated patterns pop up consistently on the pitch which allows for an identity to develop. At Manchester City, it was the fullbacks who played a significant role as they were inverted by Guardiola allowing City to create dangerous situations, overloads in wide and central areas, and of course, allowing Kevin de Bruyne to shine.
The thing that mostly stands out to me is his intelligence, he is City’s talisman and yet everyone that isn’t Kante has trouble marking the mercurial belgian as he understands the game so well.
He’d often take his markers with him out wide to allow Gundogan or Silva to attack the space that was left behind and then he himself would join the attack coming from out-to-in.
The screengrab above shows this with him moving out wide either taking his marker with him or allowing Silva to occupy him. This gives de Bruyne multiple options to play teammates into dangerous situations.
Or..you know..have a pop…
The mercurial midfielder is usually found in the right half space of Manchester City’s attack, dominating their proceedings from there. He’ll usually combine with the midfielder on the right hand side (Bernardo/Mahrez) instead of the fullback.
Below we’ll showcase different radars pertaining to different positions on the pitch courtesy of @CrabStats on twitter
His Central Midfield radar showcases his versatility in terms of tackles he makes as well as the periodic pressure he puts the opposition midfielders under. Yet despite the higher defensive work rate he still manages to create 4.52 chances per game (!!!!)
An attacking midfielder it’s a little different, he plays ahead of play, therefore, less involved in the middle of the pitch resulting in lesser tackles per game. Yet he still creates the same number of chances and has a lot more shots at goal
As you can see he’s capable of playing multiple midfield roles in the team whether that is as a midfielder or a forward (which he does for Belgia)
Pep Guardiola has deployed him as a central midfielder in a 2 in the Premier League due to the league’s inability to match the technical quality that Manchester City possess, this proved to be a masterstroke as they won two Premier League titles back to back.
He was mostly utilized as a forward for games against Arsenal as he was instructed to drive with the ball through Arsenal’s weak midfield makeup and almost scoring a wonderful hattrick were it not for Bernd Leno’s brilliance.
The ‘Beckham’ foot:
Before you guys tell me I’m jumping to conclusions, hear me out… That right foot is a f*#king rocket. We at CrossBar label KdB’s right foot as the beckham foot due to his ability with crosses into the box or by the byline and when we say those deliveries are undefendable, we mean it.
Look at the snap below:
Bernardo Silva lays the ball to him and in typical KdB fashion he whips in an almost undefendable delivery at the back post
Sterling makes no mistake and this has become a sort of a signature of the midfielder’s and when you watch him play you almost expect one of his deliveries to result in Manchester City taking advantage.
He’s what I would like to call a ‘hybrid’ which is the norm for how you see an attacking midfielder nowadays. Kevin de Bruyne is able to play both roles of a #10 and an #8 simultaneously in the same game.
He drops deep to progress the play in the middle of the park alongside Gundogan and Silva while still maintaining an average of 4.52 chances created per game is actually INSANE now that you think about it.
Manchester City are aiming to become a powerhouse in world football and in order for them to achieve those goals they will have to keep hold of their prized asset.
But seeing as the club has been banned from the Champions League for 2 years the midfielder has been quoted as saying he’d probably look towards a change if things dont change.
Manchester City fans would be hoping for a positive outcome, while the rest of the league most probably will be hoping for the opposite.