Kevin De Bruyne

Manchester City
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What we love about Manchester City

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This week at ProSoccerTalk we will be detailing what we love about each Premier League club competing in the 2019-20 season and next up is Manchester City.

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights ] 

Each day we will release details on why who adore each team in particular as we remind ourselves just how awesome the PL is as we await its return following the suspension due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Still two-time defending champs for a while still, Man City is next.


Pep Guardiola: He may leave Manchester sooner rather than later — who knows, though? — but his name won’t depart posts like these, as the Catalan wizard has revolutionized a league in three countries. The same way that dealing with Jurgen Klopp has made City and the league better, Guardiola set the table by asking all of the questions. City has rewritten the Premier League record book, and the guy’s standing tall during this coronavirus fight, too.

KDB: There’s no one in the league and few in the world like Kevin De Bruyne. He can hammer the ball from distance and his dribbling trickery is solid, but it’s the passing and vision that make KDB the best player in the Premier League.

Passes like this are the ones that light our fires. They are the soccer equivalent to a quarterback “throwing a guy open” and this one against West Ham from 2017 is just stupid.


2017/18: One of the best things about the Premier League stretch run, whenever we get there, is going to be seeing how Liverpool goes about trying to measure up with the best season in recent history. Manchester City’s 2017/18 season was utterly phenomenal, with 32 wins, 106 goals, and a +79 goal differential all records. Pep Guardiola’s football was free-flowing and his defense the league’s stingiest.

Some fans are bigger than others: Every club has its celebrity supporters, but Manchester City has two of the best songwriters in music history on its side in the form of super supporters Noel Gallagher and Johnny Marr. Gallagher, formerly of Oasis, has become a fixture around the team and often has Marr on his side. The Smiths guitarist actually was a trialist for the club in the early 1970s before penning songs like “Panic” and “Shoplifters Of The World Unite.” And we didn’t forget you, Liam. #Reunite.

PST Roundtable: PL at the 3/4 mark

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The Premier League season is paused at just more than the three-quarter mark — 76.05 percent, to be a bit more formal — and we’ve got a good handle on who’s good and who isn’t.

[ MORE: Premier League schedule ]

That said, the number also gives an idea of why there’s plenty of possibilities remaining for the table and award winners once the season presumably resumes for the stretch run.

It would be natural to speculate on the front-runners and Championship-bound sides if there were matches this weekend, so why not do it now?

We’ve quizzed our PST staff on a handful of questions in roundtable form, though there was no table and my desk is decidedly rectangular.


Liverpool players have won Player of the Year for the past two seasons despite not winning the league. Are the tables flipped this year? Who is on track for PL Player of the Year?

Joe Prince-WrightKevin De Bruyne should probably win it but I expect Jordan Henderson or Sadio Mane to win it. Liverpool will win the league by a mile and both have been influential. When they’ve been out injured Liverpool have missed them and I’d probably say Mane should win it.

Andy Edwards: This is a weird one, because Liverpool have been so thoroughly outstanding in every way, on every level, that it would be difficult to pick just one of them for Player of the Year. Is Sadio Mane deserving? Sure is. What about Mohamed Salah? Also yes. Virgil Van Dijk? Yet again, yes. Trent Alexander-Arnold? You can make a strong case that he’s perhaps done the most to lift Liverpool another level higher from a “non-traditional” award-winning position. All of that is to say, simply deliver the award to Melwood Training Ground and let the players decide amongst themselves.

Daniel Karell: Remember when the U.S. women’s national team won the 1999 SI Sportsperson of the Year award? I think we’re going to have to do that for Liverpool. While Virgil Van Dijk, Mo Salah, and Sadio Mane would all be worthy of the trophy individually, it’s truly been a team effort this season and the culmination of 5 years of growth, smart transfer dealings, and hard work. Trent Alexander-Arnold has been immense at times, as has Jordan Henderson, Fabinho, and Allison Becker. Ultimately, it’s a bit of a cop-out answer but I think it’s just hard this year to pick just one who has been better. Jamie Vardy currently leads the Premier League in goals, and while he’s been terrific, he hasn’t also been playing in the Champions League like Salah, Mane, and Van Dijk have, for example. 

Kyle Bonn: It has to be Kevin de Bruyne, right? Yea, it does.

Nick Mendola: Kevin De Bruyne and it’s not particularly close. He has a fine chance of setting the league assist record, and he’s two away becoming the only player in the Top Five twice. There are words to be said for Trent Alexander-Arnold, Sadio Mane, Wilfred Ndidi, and Raul Jimenez, but no true decent arguments outside of “it should come from the champion,” which we covered in the question.


Who’s on track for your Best XI?

Joe Prince-Wright: Alisson; Alexander-Arnold, Van Dijk, Maguire, Saka; J. Henderson, Ndidi, De Bruyne; Mane, Firmino, Vardy

Andy Edwards: Alisson; Alexander-Arnold, Van Dijk, Soyuncu, Robertson; Ndidi, Moutinho, De Bruyne; Salah, Jimenez, Mane

Daniel Karell: Alisson; Alexander-Arnold, Van Dijk, Soyuncu, Robertson; De Bruyne, Maddison, Jorginho; Vardy, Aubameyang, Salah

Kyle Bonn: D. Henderson; TAA, Van Dijk, Maguire, Robertson; Ndidi, De Bruyne, J. Henderson, Grealish; Mane, Vardy.

Nick Mendola: Leno; Alexander-Arnold, Van Dijk, Soyuncu, Robertson; Ndidi, Rodri, De Bruyne; Salah, Jimenez, Mane.


What’s the best goal you’ve seen this season?

Joe Prince-Wright: I think that has to be Heung-Min Son’s incredible solo goal. Clear winner for Goal of the Season.

Andy Edwards: Heung-min Son’s solo goal versus Burnley

Daniel Karell:  I mean…it’s got to be Heung-min Son against Burnley. Honorable mention though to Kevin de Bruyne vs. Newcastle and Moussa Djenepo vs. Sheffield United.

Kyle Bonn: Three goals so far stand out in my mind: Heung-Min Son’s dizzying run vs. Burnley, Jahanbakhsh’s bike against Chelsea, and Jordan Ayew’s little zig-zag against West Ham. The Spurs’ man’s goal wins for the sheer distance he covered.

Nick Mendola: Son. Solo. Next.


What are your Top 3 moments of the season so far?

Joe Prince-Wright: Woah. What a question. In no particular order: Christian Pulisic’s hat trick for Chelsea v Burnley. Leicester winning 9-0 at Southampton. Liverpool destroying everyone but I particularly enjoyed their 4-0 win at Leicester.

Daniel Karell: The season being postponed for the Coronavirus: Only a global pandemic could upstage the season Liverpool was having. Then Liverpool’s 3-1 win over Man City, which proved that the Reds have fully passed Man City in the pecking order. Finally, I’m biased, but for me it’s the malaise and slide that Arsenal is in. How the mighty have fallen.

Kyle Bonn: Lot to potentially go into the pot here, but the ones that stick out most in my mind are Leicester City demolishing Southampton 9-0, Newcastle ridiculous late 2-2 draw with Everton on Lejeune’s double, and Southampton exacting revenge on Leicester City for the aforementioned demolition with a 2-1 road win. I think Liverpool could potentially have three on here as well, one for the Sadio Mane header against Aston Villa, one for the late Lallana goal against Manchester United to draw, and one for the loss to Watford that ended the unbeaten league season.

Nick Mendola: Two of my three involve the soon-to-be champs, and the first took 24 seconds to reshape the season. It was the time that passed between Trent Alexander-Arnold’s would-be handball penalty for Man City and Fabinho’s rocket to beat Claudio Bravo. ‘Member? Insane. Maybe we should’ve called “Game: Blouses” on the whole season there, citing a season of fate.

The second is Watford’s beatdown of Liverpool to end the Reds’ unbeaten season is here because of its complete nature. The worn-down Reds capitulated to Ismaila Sarr in a way that lives very large.

Third could be anything: Liverpool coming back to beat West Ham. Leicester City hanging nine on Southampton. Hometown kid Matty Longstaff using all five-foot-nothing of his teenage body to piledrive Newcastle past Manchester United on his Premier League debut with his brother next to him in the midfield.

It’s been a season, team.


Grade VAR on a scale of 1-10 (1 being poor and 10 being perfect). What can be changed to make the VAR system more efficient and consistent?

Joe Prince-Wright: I’d give it a 6/10. People forget the small errors which still pop up but a lot of decisions which would have previously been wrong are now correct. I think letting referees use the pitch side monitors will improve the system and the respect for on-field officials. Too much of the control is sent to Stockley Park.

Andy Edwards: 5, dead center of the spectrum. My biggest gripe: it’s been used to micromanage and legislate the smallest of margins far too frequently. We all understand the Laws of the Game are the rules by which the game must be officiated, but what of the Spirit of the Laws of the Game? There must exist a gray area of sorts, as there is with everything in life, where intent and advantage are considered and weighed en route to the final decision. If a player is offside by 2 millimeters, is that an advantage which has a decisive impact in favor of the attacker? In most cases, it’s probably not.

Daniel Karell: 5. It’s decent, but the fact that refs refuse to use the monitors means that they’re just constantly second guessing themselves and it’s affecting how they call games in general. Make a call, and if the VAR says, hey, you might want to look at this, take a look at it to be sure. You can’t go wrong.

Kyle Bonn: VAR so far gets a 4 out of 10 for me. It gets a 3/5 on intent and ability, as the system for the most part has demonstrated the ability to serve as intended when used properly, with a few tweaks necessary such as pitchside monitors and rules like the handball rule needing amending. It gets a 1/5 on execution, with the Premier League struggling mightily to grasp the spirit of the technology. The offside line has done its job, despite the bad publicity, but the “clear & obvious error” has been grossly misinterpreted and calls have been changed or even investigated when not needed.

Nick Mendola: I’m going with five, and it’d be much higher if the PL learned from the NHL’s biggest mistake with replay: offside(s). At least in hockey there’s a blue line to help. The “moment the ball is struck” is such a poor reference point. Let the linespeople live here.


 

BONUS: Who is the best referee in the Premier League and why?

Joe Prince-Wright: Mike Dean because he is not only a pretty fair referee, overall, but he jokes with the players and seems to have their respect. Don’t @ me.

Daniel Karell: I don’t know who the best is, but Mike Dean is towards the bottom.

Kyle Bonn: Mike Dean, because he has supreme control of the pitch and makes the fewest amount of obvious errors.

Nick Mendola: I find Michael Oliver the most consistent.

De Bruyne doubtful for Sunday’s Manchester derby

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Kevin De Bruyne‘s availability for Sunday’s Manchester derby (Watch live, 12:30 p.m. ET, on NBC and NBCSports.com) is very much uncertain and perhaps even leaning toward unlikely, according to Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola.

[ MORE: Arsenal’s Lucas Torreira out indefinitely with fractured ankle ]

The injury to De Bruyne’s shoulder was suffered when the hell and landed awkwardly during Sunday’s League Cup final victory over Aston Villa. While it doesn’t sound like the injury is at all serious, De Bruyne might miss a week or two of action — quotes from Sky Sports:

“Kevin had a problem here [points to shoulder]. He was not fit.

“In the last game, the last minutes he fell down in a bad position and had a problem in his back. We don’t know how long [he will be out]. Hopefully not much.”

Asked if he expects his Belgian playmaking maestro to be fit for the derby at Old Trafford, Guardiola simply responded, “I don’t know.”

De Bruyne has nearly two weeks to return to health before Man City host Real Madrid with a 3-1 lead in the UEFA Champions League on March 17.

Guardiola ‘so proud’ of Man City comeback; KDB, Jesus react to tactics

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Pep Guardiola was grinning widely after his tactical moves set up Manchester City in a 2-1 comeback win over Real Madrid at the Bernabeu.

“I’m so proud,” Guardiola said. “This is the first step. It’s not over. We can enjoy the moment.”

Why wouldn’t he be smiling? Guardiola became the first manager to win Champions League games at the Bernabeu with two different teams, and did it during one of the most controversial periods in club history.

[ MORE: Premier League schedule ]

What was different? Well, Guardiola played Kevin De Bruyne as a sort of second striker and took center forward Gabriel Jesus and deployed him as a left-sided midfielder.

“In the four years we are here with Pep, sometimes there are some surprises,” De Bruyne said. “Even the players don’t really know before the game starts what we need to do. Some were good. We had some lesser moments but in a quality game like this you’re gonna struggle but we fought really well together.”

Jesus had it even weirder, playing as a sort of left midfielder or even wingback with plenty of responsibility going back and forward.

The Brazilian said he has some experience playing wide, but — again — you have to be ready for the full Pep Guardiola experience.

“I can remember my time in the Palmeiras academy and I play like a winger and then become a striker,” he said. “But I go to the pitch to help my team-mates. It doesn’t matter if I have to run back or forwards. I have to help my team-mates. We are learning a lot. We have to play different positions sometimes.”

Guardiola knows the second leg is going to be tough, as Real will put everything into attack.

“When we were better, we conceded a goal,” Guardiola said, via the BBC. “When they were better, we scored a goal. That’s football. I remember the quarterfinal a few seasons ago at Anfield when we played incredibly well and they scored all their shots on target.”

Real will be without center back Sergio Ramos, who was sent off late, while Man City could be missing its best center back. Aymeric Laporte subbed off in the first half.

Man City makes statement, comes back in Madrid

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Kevin De Bruyne‘s second-half star show led Manchester City to a 2-1 comeback win over Real Madrid at the Bernabeu in Wednesday’s first leg of a UEFA Champions League Round of 16 tie.

Isco had put the hosts ahead in the 60th minute off a Vinicius Junior assist, but De Bruyne set up Gabriel Jesus for a 78th-minute header before converting a Raheem Sterling-won penalty five minutes later.

[ MORE: Pep, KDB, Jesus react to win ]

Sergio Ramos was sent off in the 87th minute for a pullback on Jesus and will miss the second leg, while Aymeric Laporte was injured for City.

The second leg is March 17 at the Etihad Stadium.

[ MORE: Premier League schedule ]

Pep Guardiola‘s tactical approach clearly surprised Zinedine Zidane, with Jesus in a left midfield/wing back role and De Bruyne up top.

Aymeric Laporte’s injury in the 33rd minute certainly hampered City’s thoughts of a big win.M

Bernardo Silva ripped a left-footed effort in the opening minute as City came out of the gates well.

The next real chance came from Gabriel Jesus, slipped in by a Kevin De Bruyne through ball but denied by Thibaut Courtois.

Ederson denied Karim Benzema point blank in the 30th minute, and Rodrigo fumbled the rebound in what should’ve been an easy 1-0 to the hosts.

Real used a goal line clearance to deny Jesus off a corner kick, as Courtois slapped Kevin De Bruyne’s set piece to the Brazilian at the back post.

Fede Valverde saw a yellow for taking down Ilkay Gundogan in the 48th minute.

A Casemiro mistake sent De Bruyne on a long dribble, the Belgian finding Riyad Mahrez for a shot that swirled high and wide of the goal.

Real found a breakthrough against the run of play in the 60th minute, Isco slotting under Ederson off a Vinicius Junior pass between Kyle Walker and Fernandinho.

It was terribly sloppy from Nicolas Otamendi and Rodri in a turnover with poor response.

But De Bruyne darted into the box and turned a delightful chipped cross to Jesus, who outleapt a stumbling Sergio Ramosto turn a header past Courtois.

Then Dani Carvajal chopped down substitute Raheem Sterling to put De Bruyne on the spot. The Belgian had a salve for City’s recent penalty issues.