Pep Guardiola backs Kevin de Bruyne to hit top gear again for Manchester City

Ahead of Champions League match against Club Brugge, Spanish manager insists he has no concerns about midfielder's - or his team's - form of late

While Manchester City have scored 751 goals under Pep Guardiola, none have come in their last two games. Their manager rarely judges performances by goals alone and insisted that City’s performance levels are as high as they have been during his reign.

Yet he conceded that Kevin de Bruyne is below his best, while Kyle Walker accepted the same is true of Jack Grealish. In each case, there was a call for patience, an acceptance that creative players cannot always hit the heights. City did when they beat Club Brugge 5-1 two weeks ago.

If a repeat would be welcome ahead of Saturday’s Manchester derby, a bullish Guardiola nevertheless likes much of what he has seen.

“We are playing at an incredible level in the last month or month and a half,” he said, ahead of City's home Champions League game against the Belgian outfit on Wednesday. “In terms of the way we are playing, maybe the best moments since we’ve been here. In terms of the process, and many things, we are doing really, really well.”

City nevertheless exited the League Cup, losing on penalties to West Ham after a 0-0 draw, before Saturday’s 2-0 defeat to Crystal Palace. It was notable for Guardiola substituting the talismanic De Bruyne when City were looking for an equaliser. Often the most creative player in the Premier League, the Belgian is yet to record an assist in the division this season but Guardiola showed a sense of understanding.

“You cannot imagine how good a player he is,” he said. “He has our complete support. When you have a long career like him, millions of games, you have highs and lows. You cannot perform incredibly well all the time, he knows he can do better.

“We’ll wait for him as I know what he’s doing every day to get to his best. In last eight or nine years he’s had three weeks’ holiday. He’s a human being.

“All the players [are expected] to make their best performance every three days. If players have incredible strength it’s easier but the creative players — to do it every three days — there isn’t a player can do it.”

Club Brugge 1 Manchester City 5: player ratings

Many of England’s Euro 2020 finalists have struggled to hit the heights after their efforts in the summer. Right-back Walker is an exception, but attributes that to his fitness. Grealish is expected to offer more invention but, after an impressive start to life in Manchester, the £100 million man has a solitary assist in his last eight outings.

Walker feels it can take time to adjust to different gameplan. “He has come into a new team with a new philosophy,” he explained. “We have all seen over the last number of years just what Jack can do: the way he keeps the ball, his dribbling, attracting players, drawing fouls, he is great to watch and I can assure you it is a nightmare for defenders.

“He has not played badly, he’s probably not quite hit the consistent levels he was getting at Aston Villa but we like to share the load here.”

Walker’s belief that a collective commitment is imperative ties in with City’s attempts to source goals from across the team as they adjust after the departure of their record scorer Sergio Aguero. “We are a team, and this team is built on foundations from over the last four years,” he added.

“We lost ‘Kun’ in the summer who was the hero, the standout and the poster boy for this club but apart from that I think everyone is on a level playing field where there are no egos and we all work hard for each other. It is 11 players on the pitch, not one, two, three or four superstars that everyone else runs for.”

Updated: November 2nd 2021, 3:05 PM
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