There is no doubt about it that Manchester City are currently playing the best football in the Premier League. Some might argue that Pep Guardiola’s team are the ones to beat in Europe, and it is not a farfetched hypothesis.

The Citizens have been utterly sensational since the opening day of the season; they have won 10 of their 11 games in the Premier League, with a surprising draw at home to Everton – which now looks even more baffling given the Toffees’ current circumstances.

Kevin De Bruyne has been the beating heart of this Man City team, and has elevated his performance tenfold since last season. Now 26 years old, the Belgium international is in the prime form of his career.

Interestingly, Guardiola does not have De Bruyne playing in the number 10 role, as one would expect him to play. Instead, he plays a more central midfield role, with David Silva operating in the playmaker’s position.

However, this newfound role, first used by Belgium boss Roberto Martinez, does not inhibit De Bruyne’s capabilities to get forward and attack. In fact, it has made De Bruyne receive and get in possession of the ball even more, which, in turn, allows him to look up and provide his sensational passes into his attackers’ feet.

You could already pick a number of De Bruyne’s passes this season and say, ‘that was the Pass of the Season’, but one really stands out from the rest.

Against Stoke City, at the Etihad, Guardiola’s men were already 5-2 up when the ball gets sent out-wide on the right-hand side to De Bruyne. The Belgian expertly nudges it past the Stoke midfielder and creates space for himself – a common theme of the season so far. De Bruyne then drives forward and delivers a defence-splitting, curving ball through the heart of the Stoke defence, which miraculously ends up just in front of the sprinting Leroy Sané, who finishes the move off brilliantly.

That one pass took four Stoke players out of the game. Four. In five seconds it went from a hotly-contested challenge for the ball, to another Manchester City goal – courtesy of the Belgian maestro. It was a masterstroke of a pass and a passage of play that will surely be remembered for a long, long time.

Man City are high-flying Champions-elect, but it would be nonsensical to crown them the Champions of the Premier League in mid-November. In Guardiola’s first season, the Citizens won their first 10 games in all competitions, and then quickly fell off a cliff and, in the end, finished third.

They do, however, look a much stronger unit, which makes sense given their investment over the summer worth hundreds of millions of pounds.

However, just like when Manchester United lost Paul Pogba, one injury could derail and slow City’s season down if they were to lose De Bruyne. You can never predict when an injury could occur, of course not, but it is clear that Guardiola has an over-reliance on the former Chelsea player.

City have a wealth of talent in their squad, which is why they are being tipped as one of the favourites for the Champions League, but no one can come in and emulate what De Bruyne brings. He is in the form of his life and playing football that some players only dream about. There is a clear difference in quality between De Bruyne and Yaya Touré, who would be his replacement.

Manchester City’s priority is wrapping De Bruyne up in cotton wool at every given moment, to prevent such an injury taking place. If they were to lose him for a lengthy period, just like Pogba, then it could have a detrimental effect to their season. That is not to say they will not go on to win it, but that eight-point gap at the summit could easily come tumbling down.

Odds are correct at the time of posting

Join the discussion