Kevin de Bruyne: Filling the Xavi Role at City

Can de Bruyne help Pep bring Barcelona to Manchester?

Manchester City looked sharp as a blade in their 3-0 victory over Spurs on Saturday evening. David Silvia, Kevin de Bruyne, Raheem Sterling, and even outcast Samir Nasri helped create chance after chance and rip their opposition to shreds. The performance was not without fault of course.

On multiple occasions the City forwards missed absolute sitters and Tottenham created quite a few chances of their own. But, of course, it is the preseason and chinks in the armor can be easily justified. What Pep Guardiola can rejoice about from last night is that we are finally seeing similarities between City and Pep’s Barcelona teams that dominated the European football scene from 2008-2012.

This is what many fans have been waiting for and, although they are far from a carbon copy, City star Kevin de Bruyne can help give the Manchester blue the same identity that Xavi Hernandez gave Barca.

Tactically speaking, De Bruyne was bred as an attacking midfield player and it shows in his relatively dull defensive abilities. But Xavi was no N’Golo Kante either and de Bruyne has the physicality and intelligence to remain effective in deeper areas of the midfield. If he is to truly take on the role of Xavi in his team, the area that de Bruyne will need to change the most is his decision making on the ball.

In the golden days of Xavi and Iniesta’s reign at Barca their short and crisp passing was a trademark. There was simply no player on the team that attempted risky passes and as a result the possession and control would suffocate teams into conceding. Kevin de Bruyne is, without a doubt, one of the most talented passers and playmakers we have in the game today. He does make risky decisions and attempts delicate through balls but he is REALLY good at it. Unfortunately, it does not look like that ability has a place in Pep’s team.

Last night against Spurs, City were working the ball through the midfield until they were left with one or two simple but dagger through passes or short crosses that led to goals. It was far more effective than having de Bruyne try to pull all the strings himself. Over the course of the season de Bruyne will have to continue to show restraint and patience in the build up for his team as he has this pre-season. He has the talent and the vision to dominate games in the same way that got Xavi on the Ballon D’or ballot as a midfielder. He just needs to trust Pep’s philosophy and let himself become a part of the system.

This is a big season for Guardiola, and the Barca comparisons have been a long time coming for Johan Cruijff’s protege. City have sold off most of their older players, many of which had helped them win their first title, but have spent some serious cash to replace them with the likes of Bernardo Silvia, Danilo, Kyle Walker, and Benjamin Mendy.

The raw talent is there and much of it comes with new faces in a team that already struggled with chemistry issues last season. All that talent just needs an identity and Pep will be looking to create one early on this season with the familiar face of de Bruyne as the catalyst.

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