Let’s analyze why Kevin de Bruyne is Man City’s x-factor, to show ti we are going to take a look at the match against Newcastle and how the Belgian was the gamechanger. During the first half, Man City were unable to take advantage of the spaces left by Newcastle behind their second line. What Newcastle did was place 5 players closing the central channel, denying the pass to Doku or Foden, who appeared between the lines. This left Almirón and Gordon marking Kovacic and Bernardo Silva who were staying tight trying to create numerical superiority in the middle, but what this caused was that the middle of the field was congested. The Newcastle centre-backs took Julian Álvarez out of the game by double teaming him, as they didn’t need to jump to defend any player between the lines, as the passing lanes were blocked.

This meant that Man City had to play a lot of back passes and when the ball reached Walker or Gvardiol, then the Newcastle full-backs jumped, being very aggressive, preventing progression, like in this play with Burn putting pressure on Walker.

On the other side, the same thing happened with Doku drifting inside to isolate Gvardiol, but as soon as the pass was played, Trippier jumped to intercept, like in this play where Newcastle had a good counterattack.

When Kevin de Bruyne came on in the 69th minute, Newcastle’s defensive problems appeared. Newcastle’s second line separated into three sections, with possible passing lanes appearing. Instead of having to get past 5 players, as Newcastle’s 2 wingers are more open, Rodri only has to get past the 3 midfielders to find the player between the lines. Walker is pinning Gordon, allowing De Bruyne to look for this space to receive by drifting wide to the right place, waiting the 2 center backs with Julián Álvarez. The Argentine players drags one of the two players marking him, De Bruyne receives uncontested, turns and drives to the edge of the box to score with a shot between the defender’s legs.

And in Man City’s decisive goal we see another role in which De Bruyne is fundamental for Guardiola. Rodri and the Belgian player switch positions, De Bruyne with his great vision identifies Oscar Bobb attacking space and throws a perfect pass in the gap between right back and center back.

As Guardiola said at the end of the match, players like Haaland or De Bruyne are those whose qualities allow them to find solutions in the final third. Man City was playing a good game but without Kevin de Bruyne’s characteristics to open spaces, Man City would surely not have won this game. De Bruyne the X factor of Man City.

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