Brilliant De Bruyne steers Manchester City to top of Premier League

Belgian adds another goal to earn Pep Guardiola's stars victory at Leicester

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There is not much left for Kevin De Bruyne to achieve in England with the Belgian positioned in the driver’s seat of the Manchester City juggernaut that has won four of the last five Premier League titles.

De Bruyne’s telling contribution this time around at Leicester was a spectacular one, as he curled a stunning free-kick into the net to send the champions back to the top of the table with a 1-0 win.

It was a stark reminder of the supreme shooting ability the 31-year-old possesses, but also highlighted that a player who can arrow goals into the net like De Bruyne should have more goals to his name.

All City had to do was revert to Pep Guardiola type at the King Power Stadium. Without the injured Erling Haaland as a focal point in the attack for the first time in the Premier League this term, the champions slipped back into the false nine system that had brought them untold riches in recent times.

Against a team who came into the contest on the back of three successive clean sheets, City’s tried and tested set-up failed to bear fruit in the first half, with passes going from side to side, without causing the hosts any problems.

It was not the first time such a thing has happened to City. Teams that have got results against the champions have all set up the same – with plenty behind the ball, in the low block, more than happy to let their superior opponents dominate possession.

Teams have tried the same this term, but Haaland has made the champions a more dangerous beast, rendering anything an opposition manager has tried to do to stop them almost pointless.

It was clear it was going to take something special to unlock a determined Leicester, something City have in their midst in abundance. What De Bruyne did to steer the champions back to the top of the table took things to another level.

The perfect strike does not exist, but De Bruyne’s fourth Premier league goal direct from a free-kick comes close. The fact it went in off the bottom of the crossbar gave it that additional shine.

The Belgian’s penchant for the spectacular is nothing new. Among players to have scored 50 or more goals in the Premier League, only David Beckham (55 per cent) and Christian Eriksen (44 per cent) have netted a higher percentage of their goals from outside the box than De Bruyne’s 25 of his 60 league goals.

What he now must do more is start adding the more scruffy, close-range finishes to get the numbers up. Time those arrivals into the box a little better, as Frank Lampard made his trademark, and the goals will flow.

It is the only part of De Bruyne’s game that cannot be labelled world class. Sixty career Premier League goals is a superb return for a midfielder. It is not, however, one that will help his cause to be considered the very best the English top fight has had to offer when he retires.

The issue is, as his match-winning contribution at the King Power showed, he is more than capable of finding the net on a regular basis, from all angles.

While Haaland has grasped the goalscoring mantle with two unmovable hands, his unteachable positional play creates space for others too, opening the door for players like De Bruyne, with his shooting ability, to get in on the act.

Phil Foden has capitalised and is well on his way to his best-ever goal return this term. De Bruyne must now do the same and his place among the Premier League greats will be elevated even further.

Updated: October 29, 2022, 1:48 PM
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