Kevin De Bruyne

Man City finding record form in historic race… to second

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Last season saw Liverpool become perhaps the hardest-luck second-place team in soccer history, millimeters and a referee’s watch stopping a club deserving of a title.

While the points might not be there for the runners-up this go-round, we’ve got a case of turnabout being fair play for the sky blue side of Manchester.

Pep Guardiola‘s Man City is on pace for 81 points, a total worthy of a title winner as recently as Leicester City’s 2015/16 miracle run.

[ MORE: Premier League schedule ]

City served a reminder of its potency on Sunday when it dialed up six goals to down Aston Villa with ease and without Raheem Sterling. It’s the 19th time in 22 matches that City has scored multiple goals, putting them on pace to break their own Premier League record for goals in a season.

City scored 106 times in their remarkable 2017/18 season, and Sunday’s show puts them on track for 107. And Pep Guardiola’s men still face the Premier League’s four worst defenses, three of those fixtures coming at the Etihad Stadium.

Individually, Sergio Aguero is breaking records held by names like Henry and Shearer, and Kevin De Bruyne may take down another of Henry’s nearly-immortal marks.

Perhaps because City and Liverpool have been so wonderful the past two seasons, we’re overlooking both.

The numbers people say so.

FiveThirtyEight says City remains the second-best team in the world — yes, the world — despite its relative table problems. The two-time reigning PL champs are closer to passing Liverpool than they are to dipping beind third place Bayern Munich (who, it must be noted, is not leading its league).

While the Reds are unbeaten and the reigning Champions League winners, City sits second despite long absences for arguably their most important tactical player of two seasons ago (Leroy Sane) and last season (Aymeric Laporte).

They’ve also been unlucky on the whole this season, according to the expected goals table, and have scored 12 more goals than anyone else in the league (No. 2 Liverpool has played one less match).

In case you’re wondering, the PL has five teams in the model’s Top 20. Chelsea (9th), Manchester United (12th), Tottenham Hotspur (14th), and Leicester City (16th) are bossing the numbers game in Europe. Norwich City is the lowest, at 125th, joining Newcastle (104th) and Aston Villa (109th) as the only PL teams outside the Top 100.

Liverpool is carving its name in history this season, and we’ll doubtlessly spend the better part of the next four months singing their deserved praises. Quietly, however, City may be writing almost as impressive a tale and — perhaps, presuming a healthy-enough Laporte — one that ends on May 30 in Turkey.

Aguero rewrites record book as Man City unloads on Aston Villa

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Manchester City took over second place in the Premier League with an emphatic 6-1 beating of Aston Villa at Villa Park on Sunday.

Sergio Aguero wrote a new Premier League record with his 12th hat trick, breaking Alan Shearer’s two-decade old record. He also became the all-time leader in goals for a foreign-born player. Aguero added an assist, because why not?

Riyad Mahrez scored a brace, Kevin De Bruyne supplied a pair of assists, and Gabriel Jesus also scored as the two-time reigning league champs opened up a four-goal halftime lead.

[ MORE: Watch full PL match replays ]

Ilkay Gundogan gave away a needless penalty to Trezeguet in stoppage time. Anwar El Ghazi blasted his effort home for the consolation.

City’s 47 points are 14 back of leaders Liverpool, who have a match-in-hand.

Villa is in the Bottom Three with 21 points, its minus-15 goal differential second worst in the league.


Three things we learned

1. City piling up numbers as sensational Aguero sets standard: Sergio Aguero’s two goals gave him a new Premier League record. His 175 goals are the most scored by a non-English player in league history, and it’s fitting that it came off a David Silva assist. That helped is Silva’s 137th for the club.

Then he upped the ante, scoring his 12th Premier League hat trick. No one’s done that.

2. History-chasing De Bruyne puts on show: Kevin De Bruyne’s .636 assists per league match this season have him well on his way to breaking Thierry Henry’s PL single season assist record. KDB has 14, meaning at current pace he’ll tie or break the record even if he misses four matches.

This pass to meet Gabriel Jesus’ run was just stupid.

3. Nightmare debut for Drinkwater: Danny Drinkwater has a new claret shirt after his loan to Burnley changed to a loan to Aston Villa, but the Chelsea man is still in relegation form. Drinkwater was worked by Mahrez for City’s first goal and then played with lower league speed in failing to clear danger on the second. Honestly, the embattled midfielder could’ve been at fault for a third before the match was 25 minutes old.

Man of the Match: A-guer-o.


City was ready to pounce on any mistakes from Moment No. 1, and Mahrez didn’t need much room to make it 1-0.

The Algerian danced past Danny Drinkwater and then used Kortney Hause as a screen to fire a low shot inside the near post.

Mahrez got his second after some real industry from Aguero on the left. The Argentine pushed a ball off the end line and back into the mixer. Both David Silva and Gabriel Jesus got a piece of the ball en route to Mahrez’s finish.

[ MORE: Premier League stats ] 

Jesus turned a terrific Mendy pass to rip a shot over the bar in the 26th.

Aguero made it 3-0 when Villa’s back line gave him acres of space to rip a shot that Nyland could only slow on its journey to the back of the net.

Aguero and David Silva each could’ve made it four before the 37 minute mark, the latter curling his free kick around the near post.

Jesus hit the scoreboard off a fantastic and acute pass from De Bruyne, the latest example of the latter’s pure wizardry.

Aguero collected a giveaway and clinically finished past Nyland for 6-0 in the 82nd. It was his 16th hat trick for City.

Classy Man City humbles Leicester City

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Manchester City humbled second place Leicester City with a controlling 3-1 win at the Etihad Stadium on Saturday

[ MORE: Watch full PL match replays ]

Riyad Mahrez, Ilkay Gundogan, and Gabriel Jesus scored for Man City, who pulls to within a point of the second place Foxes.

Jamie Vardy gave Leicester a surprise lead against the run of play, but the Foxes failed to make up ground on Liverpool.


Three things we learned

1. Lessons for Rodgers, Leicester City: The Foxes have been very good this season, no question about that, but for the second time this season they were shown how much work is left to keep up with the leaders. Liverpool barely beat Leicester in terms of the score line, but controlled the match.

This was worse for Brendan Rodgers‘ boys, who will meet Liverpool on Boxing Day.

Leicester was out shot 18-2 in the aforementioned loss to Liverpool.

This was probably worse. Man City had 63 percent of the ball and a 23-5 edge in shots. *Twelve* of those were on target as Kasper Schmeichel bailed out his men. Seventeen of the 23 attempts came inside the box.

Pep Guardiola surprised Brendan Rodgers by leaving Rodri out of the midfield in a bid to out-sly the Foxes, and Gundogan, De Bruyne, and Bernardo Silva were very, very creative. Wilfred Ndidi did his best to keep the group from being overrun, but the remaining midfielders were absent aside from Barnes’ great assist.

2. No one’s quite like KDB right now: There are better dribblers and players with quicker pace, but there is no Premier League attacker quite as complete as De Bruyne. The Belgian’s work on Man City’s deserved this goal showed just that. It wasn’t his only moment on the day, of course, but his show of power down the right side was unstoppable in setting up Jesus’ sliding goal. And the PL’s top assist man also strikes the ball about as pure as anyone.

3. Sensational Schmeichel saves Foxes from uglier outcome: Leicester City’s goalkeeper is the reason this one wasn’t a massive and deflating blowout for Brendan Rodgers’ Foxes. He stopped some pummeled shots from the champs, and kept Leicester alive for a point.

Man of the Match: Mahrez over De Bruyne and Schmeichel, but just.


[ MORE: Premier League stats ] 

Man City came out of the gates with vigor, and was nearly rewarded with a goal when Kevin De Bruyne blasted the far post in the 13th minute.

Riyad Mahrez stung a deflected shot to Kasper Schmeichel soon after, the hosts all over the Foxes. The Algerian then set up Gabriel Jesus for a half-chance that Schmeichel did very well to slap away from the line.

Vardy scored out of nothing when Harvey Barnes, fresh off a miscue, hit a sensational outside of the boot pass to find the industrious English striker on the break.

Vardy had blazed past Fernandinho, and the Man City defender hoped his goalkeeper would save him blushes. Ederson charged out hard, but Vardy’s little chip was perfect and found its way into the goal.

Mahrez continued to have his way with Ben Chilwell to set up the equalizer, his drive taking a wicked turn to beat Schmeichel. The Leicester keeper then did very well to stop a De Bruyne rocket in the 41st.

Sterling chased after a loose ball when Mike Dean played advantage moments later, and the Englishman sidestepped Ricardo Pereira to win a penalty.

James Maddison swung a hopeful shot through traffic and Ederson did well to palm it wide of the goal.

Pep on KDB: ‘He sees passes normal humans can’t see’

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To hear Pep Guardiola describe his superstar playmaker Kevin De Bruyne, the Belgian’s pretty much a super hero.

“He sees passes normal humans can’t see,” Guardiola said after the Man City midfielder scored twice and added an assist in a 3-0 win away to Arsenal.

De Bruyne was back post to deposit a Gabriel Jesus cross in the second minute, then set up Raheem Sterling with a seeing-eye pass through the six 13 minutes later.

[ JPW: Three things learned in London ]

The cherry on top came in the 40th minute when De Bruyne smashed an powerful strike past a helpless Bernd Leno.

“He is an extraordinary player,” he said. “He doesn’t have to defend in the deep area so of course with the players we have, it’s much better.”

De Bruyne was happy with his day but is not closing the door on any of Man City’s goals. From the BBC:

“I think every time you lose a game the only reaction you can show is to win the next one. Every time we lose points we come back with a good reaction. We know we have not been at our best this year but we keep on fighting and there’s still a lot of games to play for us.”

Back to Guardiola, the managerial wizard is clearly a bit awkward when it comes to reports linking assistant Mikel Arteta to the open position at former club Arsenal.

“I haven’t spoken many times about that (Arsenal speculation) with him but he is a very good person.”

Good to know.

De Bruyne, Man City make quick work of Arsenal

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Kevin De Bruyne had two goals and an assist in the first half as Manchester City rode past Arsenal 3-0 at the Emirates Stadium on Sunday.

[ MORE: Watch full PL match replays ]

Raheem Sterling scored City’s other goal, with Phil Foden and Gabriel Jesus also recording assists.

Man City has a six-point cushion on fourth place Chelsea, and is 14 points behind leaders Liverpool.

The clean sheet was Man City’s first in 11 outings across all competitions.

Arsenal remains ninth with 22 points.

[ MORE: Spurs beat Wolves | Man Utd draws Everton ]


Three stars

1. Dynamic De Bruyne breaks dam: Kevin De Bruyne had nine assists in his first nine matches to set a threat towards the league’s record, but hadn’t collected a helper in six league outings (though he scored thrice) when he set up Sterling’s goal. The play was everything you like about your favorite wizard. De Bruyne drove the ball up field before laying off and running to a dangerous area.

2. Walker commands the right side: It took a while for Kyle Walker to grow into his price tag at City, but the right back was a force on Sunday. No City player touched and passed the ball more than Walker, who seemed to find another gear when he recognized he’d be facing young Bukayo Saka off the bench. Walker had two tackles, two dribbles, and was passing at 92 percent by the hour mark. He didn’t even have to play goal.

3. Fernandinho all over the pitch: It may be tempting to forget the Brazilian is a center midfielder, given his serial status as starting center back. Fernandinho reminded us of his creativity with a long dribble to help set up the first goal. He also did what he always does, winning four aerials, blocking a shot, and managing five clearances.


Bernd Leno was troubled twice early, but Man City opened the scoring in between the chances when Fernandinho dribbled from his own half to cut Gabriel Jesus to the end line. Jesus then swept the ball back post to De Bruyne for a vicious finish and 1-0.

It was just too easy, as De Bruyne turned provider to find Sterling alone thanks to a wobbly Sead Kolasinac.

He’d score again in more challenging fashion, a powerful and clinical strike to make it 3-0. Arsenal was lost and Man City finding itself.

[ MORE: Premier League stats ] 

An injury to Sead Kolasinac brought Bukayo Saka into the fold for another turn at wingback, and that helped to improve the Gunners.

Gabriel Jesus stripped Callum Chambers and dribbled toward the Arsenal 18, where he was stymied by Bernd Leno.

The second half was a sleepy one, City resolute even when Arsenal got into the final third.