The Football Notebook
Kevin De Bruyne Player Profile
Kevin De Bruyne. A player which daunts even the best tactical minds in modern football. Described as one of the best players he’d ever seen by the man who has coached several icons of the game, including the likes of Leo Messi, Andres Iniesta and Sergio Aguero - Pep Guardiola. Unstoppable when in full fledge and a great asset to a team even when he isn’t, Kevin De Bruyne is undoubtedly one of the greatest players in the world.
Let’s take a look at why that is the case.
Elite Passing Calibre
It is common knowledge that a key aspect of De Bruyne’s game is his unrivalled playmaking ability. Whether that be intricate passes he plays in tight spaces, the stunning through balls behind the defensive lines or the extravagant long-range passes to switch the play or start attacks out of nothing. Even the sheer number of passes per game which helps Guardiola exploit the acclaimed possession system which has been crucial in him winning the league two times thus far. Averaging 56.5 passes per game, significantly better than the 45.1 he managed in his debut season, De Bruyne’s passing is a key constituent of the player he is and is imperative to the possession-based playing style of Pep's City.
De Bruyne in his Wolfsburg days
Furthermore, he averages a monstrous 3.7 key passes a game this season - the second-best in the top 5 leagues in Europe. This means he is responsible for a large share of the goals scored by his team this season. Even Sergio Aguero, arguably the greatest premier league goalscorer of all time, should thank KDB for his part in that. The pair lead the table as the most productive partnership in the English top flight.
Kevin De Bruyne’s positioning is what makes his intricate interplay and offensive output possible. Usually playing as a right central midfielder in Manchester City’s 3 man midfield, De Bruyne operates between the wings and the central area, in a strip commonly referred to as the half-space. This space is also used by Jurgen Klopp of Liverpool, who deploys Trent Alexander Arnold here to supply the proficient Liverpool attack with inch-perfect passes. Learn more about the half space and how Liverpool use it over here → What Makes Liverpool's Fullbacks So Good
Of course, De Bruyne doesn’t limit his play to the midfield area, often pushing into attacking areas.
This is usually a drive from the centre of the pitch into the attacking third, or an overlapping run on the outside of either winger after laying the ball off to them. This creates a 2v1 overload with the opposition fullback, allowing either De Bruyne to get the ball on the wing to cross, or the winger lots of space to cut inside. He is also able to adjust to a variety of positions with relative ease, which brings me to my next point.
He can play in a multitude of roles, for example as a winger, a central midfielder, or a false nine. However, he is almost always not playing the archetypal role of the position which he is placed in. When looking at a line-up where KDB is on the wings, his role is actually as a deep-lying wide-playmaker. An example of this is David Beckham for Real Madrid. The differences between a deep-lying wide-playmaker and a normal deep-lying playmaker are that on the wings you are less relied on to dictate play, but because it is less crowded there, are afforded the opportunity to play killer passes with less pressure on you. As a right central midfielder, the Belgian Vice-Captain sets the tempo of the City Machine. He engages in defensive work and also is the biggest contributor to attacks that result in shots in the Man City squad. Put all this together, and you get a player which any manager would delight in having.
KDB in action for Manchester City
Definitely one of the more underrated areas of his game, Kevin De Bruyne does put a shift in for the predominantly offensive Man City side. Often playing only one defensive midfielder in Fernandinho, Manchester City would be benefitted by a player unafraid to step in and make that challenge, potentially shifting the momentum of the game in Man City’s favour– and they certainly have exactly that in De Bruyne who has an average of almost 2 tackles and interceptions per 90 minutes this season. Fairly impressive, considering the fact that it isn’t his responsibility in the side. A large number of his challenges are also made further up the field in pressing situations, which are more significant, considering they could play a big part in a goal.
Set piece Specialist
Widely recognised for his consistently roof-raising free-kicks, Kevin De Bruyne is masterful in dead ball situations. Equally deadly delivering any time of free-kicks to the heads of his teammates, De Bruyne has evolved into Manchester City’s go-to man for set-pieces – ahead of David Silva, who by no means is a mediocre set-piece taker. Kevin De Bruyne’s set-piece prowess only elevates his overall game, allowing him to create something out of nothing. His consistency from dead balls also sets him apart from the players who are often compared to him.
De Bruyne against Brazil in the 2018 World Cup
De Bruyne would undoubtedly make it into the roster of any team across Europe’s elite. With unique attributes and a strong winning mentality, De Bruyne does seem to have the world at his feet at the moment and is still in his prime at 28. The Premier League - or whoever suits his fancy - can expect great things from the Ginger Pelé for years to come.