The sight of Kevin De Bruyne going down with a knee injury late in Manchester City’s League Cup semi-final win at home to Everton on Wednesday night will have been a disconcerting sight to City fans. The attacking midfielder has been an integral part of Manuel Pellegrini’s side since his signing in the summer from Vfl Wolfsburg for a reported £55m.
That sort of price tag can weigh heavy on players and struggle to justify the amounts spent on them by their new club, particularly when moving to a different country. De Bruyne’s previous time in the Premier League with Chelsea probably held him in good stead and he took little time in transferring his impressive Wolfsburg to the Etihad.
His 5 goals and 9 assists in 19 Premier League appearances, plus a further 7 goals in Champions League and domestic cups have seen him make a positive impact at City and make himself an instant hero with fans. The injury he sustained is expected to keep him out for 8-10 weeks and the loss of a player of his quality would hurt any team, but can Manchester City cope without him?
Naturally, any team that boasts David Silva in its ranks should not have to worry about creativity and with a striker as prolific as Sergio Aguero to put those chances away, surely there’s nothing to worry about; especially given the understanding the two have on the pitch, right? Well, normally, yes, but David Silva’s form this season has not consistently been of his usual high standard and he has not been as influential as he usually is. The image above with stats from Squawka illustrates how De Bruyne is leading the way over team mates David Silva, Raheem Sterling and Jesus Navas in terms of goals scored, assists, chances created and key passes. Perhaps David Silva’s indifferent form could be put down to time out through injury and the introduction of De Bruyne and Sterling into the City side, however his 8 assists in 15 games is an impressive tally.
The per 90 stat gives better perspective and shows that whilst De Bruyne still leads the way for City in the Premier League this season, David Silva is the closest to him in terms of creativity. Also, whilst Raheem Sterling has netted a good amount of goals, he is offering a similar amount of creativity as Jesus Navas when it comes to the numbers. The regular chance creation and key passes from both De Bruyne and David Silva will be difficult for any opponent to deal with and although De Bruyne’s absence may allow more of the play to go through David Silva, it may also bring more individual attention to him from opponents.
The shots per 90 metric and shot accuracy is an interesting one, with Sterling getting in more shots per 90 than De Bruyne and matching him with a good shot accuracy. Conversely, David Silva not shooting as often and only achieving 31% on his shooting accuracy. Navas has not been mentioned much so far and he offers the lowest number of shots per 90 and despite a 50% accuracy when he does shoot, has yet to register a single goal this season in the Premier League; backing up the common criticism that Navas lacks an end product. What does Navas does offer though, is a high number of successful take-ons, but with limited end product it can mean very little. In fact, take-ons and fouled suffered are where De Bruyne makes a less significant contribution, but Sterling is more prominent; he, like David Silva, draws a greater number of fouls from the opposition and with the dead ball strikers that City have within their ranks, creates another dangerous attacking opportunity.
So, if the De Bruyne injury means more time for Navas, then the stats suggest the Belgian will be sorely missed. However, it may be that Pellegrini instead will instead allow Yaya Toure more attacking licence and start further up the pitch where he looks more effective than the deeper position where he often looks languid. Over recent weeks, Sterling’s game time has been managed quite sensibly, given that he is only 21, but it is likely that he will be required to take on more responsibility in this side, though David Silva will almost certainly be a much more prominent fulcrum of their creative hub. As I stated earlier, any team would miss De Bruyne, it’s natural City will miss his talent, drive and end product, but in the short term, with David Silva, Sterling, Toure and Navas they should be able to cope.