In a world where a butty from Tesco’s costs £3 and a pint of Fosters in a fairly grotty suburban Manchester pub sets you back a similar price, Kevin De Bruyne, at £55m, has to be considered a bargain. A bargain on the level of the £1.40 I used to pay for a pint of Taddy’s lager back in 2008 – there was no better feeling for a 16-year-old lad than sitting back and letting Sammy Smith’s finest completely butcher your head, knowing you’d spent absolutely naff all on the experience. City’s football this season, and De Bruyne in particular, is making me feel even better.
What’s great about this new-look City side is that we know what we’re getting every week. I predicted the score before the game, so did my Dad, and so did a mate of mine. We knew De Bruyne would be the chief ball retriever, the one running through the middle, the one creating chances and scoring goals. We knew Raheem Sterling would play well and make life difficult for his marker, that Kelechi Iheanacho would do something that made us think “Wow, he’s a really clever player for his age”, that Aleksandar Kolarov wouldn’t be shite. The element of surprise is an overrated delicacy; watching City has become a peejay-wearing, brew-sipping experience, a calming weekly episode we settle down for like David Attenborough’s Planet Earth. Pleasant, rather than exciting, is a better term for the best football we’ve ever seen at the Etihad Stadium.
I’ll happily admit I’m getting carried away. We won our first five games last season too, and then the rest of campaign was a sprint through sludge. There’s a different feeling around the club now, though. Although Manuel Pellegrini’s teams were capable of producing brilliance on the odd occasion, complacency was a toxin the side could never flush out. It ate away at the players on the pitch, but more disturbingly, it affected the intensity of sessions on the training pitch too. Quizzed on the issue in his post-match press conference, Guardiola insisted: “That is not going to happen while I am here. It is not so easy, we have a lot of work and it is only September.”
And I think it’s Guardiola more than anything I’m seeing on the pitch that makes me so confident moving forward. He is a man so utterly infatuated by the fine details that you can imagine him cleaning his bathroom with a toothbrush until every spec of dust and loose pubic hair is extracted from the area. The gaffer will do everything in his power to ensure that standards do not slip and I’ve found myself putting every single ounce of trust I have in him. I reckon most of you have ‘n’all.
Kolarov for Stones in the centre of defence? Fair enough, mate, you do your thing. Can you imagine if a similar decision was made under Pellegrini?! Twitter would’ve been going off. But rooted in every decision is the expectation of a successful outcome. You know that Pep the perfectionist has done this for a reason – a reason we may not understand, but a reason that he’s spent hours at the CFA assessing all the same. The results so far mean that Guardiola has the backing of every single City fan at this moment in time.
By the way, we won this game 4-0 and it was against Bournemouth. Forgot about that, just dead happy here.
The tone was set from the off when De Bruyne galloped through the middle of the park and stung the hands of Artur Boruc with a sweet left-footed strike. Here we go again thought both sets of fans. For the second Premier League game running it was the Belgian who dominated proceedings. This was a display that truly flaunted the frighteningly direct style he has, the two-footed Yaya Touré-like bulldozer, juggernauting his way through Bournemouth’s defence like a Lamborghini on an open freeway. If the 25-year-old sees the goal he will shoot, and if there’s a teammate better placed to score, he’ll wait for the perfect moment to stroke that ball into them with the precision of David Silva. Watching football in the early 2000’s my favourite Champions League player was Juventus’s Pavel Nedvěd, and I think De Bruyne is the closest thing we’ve seen to the brilliant Czech since he retired in 2009.
Nedvěd was an expert free-kick taker, and it was De Bruyne who put us ahead after 15 minutes from a dead-ball situation just outside Bournemouth’s 18-yard-box. What played out was quite obviously a move straight from the training ground as De Bruyne coolly slotted the ball under the wall and into the net, prompting Guardiola to point at his assistant Mikel Arteta with an approving smile. Such is Guardiola and his team’s attention to detail that they would have noticed the Bournemouth wall jumps every time.
The second was a team move of the utmost quality. Kelechi started off the dance from his own half, spreading wide to Nolito who curled a first time ball into the feet of De Bruyne. Kelechi bombing forward on the left and Sterling on the right, this speedy counter attack could’ve been mistaken for a red arrows display. With Eddie Howe’s men struggling to catch up, Sterling received the ball from De Bruyne and fed in Iheanacho who tapped in. The 19-year-old couldn’t miss, but the way he adjusted his feet to slot home was nothing short of remarkable. Even in Agüero’s absence, City still have such a natural finisher to call upon.
Stood breathless in the middle of pitch as City’s glory men jogged back to the centre circle was Jack Wilshere. Bournemouth was the midfielder’s club of choice this summer as he looks to revive a career that, without injury, could be so successful. If he can hit even half the form that De Bruyne hit in this game, he’ll have no trouble getting himself back into Arsenal’s starting XI in future seasons.
The third found the net courtesy of Sterling who was repaid by Iheanacho for his unselfishness in the first half. Iheanacho’s pass across the box left Raheem with the simple task of putting the ball in the net from a yard out – a task he almost, and thank the good Lord he did not, failed to complete. The fourth couldn’t have been scored by a more deserving bloke, İlkay Gündoğan running onto a perfectly-weighted De Bruyne pass and finding the bottom corner.
The game ended on a bit of a sour note when Nolito stupidly got himself sent off in the last ten minutes. The Spaniard aimed a headbutt at Adam Smith and can’t really complain about the referee’s decision. Leroy Sané for Swansea, anyone? Our squad depth is ridiculous.
So, is Kevin De Bruyne the best player in the Premier League? It’s an assertion most football fans are starting to agree with. Not a game goes by without a De Bruyne goal or assist and if any Premier League player is going to challenge Lionel Messi or Cristiano Ronaldo for the Ballon d’Or this year, it’s him.
Guardiola is a big admirer of the Belgian, and after today’s game had glowing words about his charge.
“Messi is on a table on his own. No-one else is allowed. But the table beside, Kevin can sit there.
“Kevin is outstanding player. Without the ball he is the first fighter. With the ball he is clear. He sees absolutely everything.
“He makes the right decision in the right moment every single time.”
You can expect more superlatives from Pep if KDB inspires City to trophies this season.