Kevin De Bruyne came *this* close to assist of the season

Kevin De Bruyne came *this* close to assist of the season

Manchester City’s Kevin De Bruyne has 16 assists in the Premier League this season. No player in the major European leagues has more. But none of them were as sexy as his brilliant shot for a would-be assist against Leeds United.

It was actually Ilkay Gundogan, who played little deeper in Rodri’s absence, who stole the show when Sam Allardyce’s Leeds visited the Etihad. The captain scored both of City’s goals in a 2-1 win and almost single-handedly set the pace for the match.

City had all the possession and territory against Leeds, who were predictable enough to defend deep and soak up the pressure in Allardyce’s first game in charge. In the first half alone, Ilkay Gundogan completed 94 passes – 44 more than Leeds overall – and recorded 108 touches – 87 more than any opposition player.

It was two brilliant shots from the German that broke through the visitors, who lined up with men behind the ball, trying to deny them space.

But the most remarkable moment that came in City’s wholly dominant performance was a sumptuous touch from De Bruyne.

It was a ball over the top from Gungodan that found the Belgian lurking in the area. He had drifted into a pocket of space but could do little with the ball, as it was coming up behind him with his back to goal – or so it seemed.

Breaking away from Max Wober, De Bruyne unleashed a stunning acrobatic strike which eluded the Leeds defense and fell into the path of Erling Haaland. Half of the playmaker’s 16 assists in the Premier League have been for Haaland, but the Norwegian striker had an unusual day off and sent wide.

De Bruyne was deprived of a glorious assist, but it didn’t make the pass any less special.

The man is blessed with an understanding of the game that few of his contemporaries can match. And he makes that clear with his wonderfully frank interviews, where he doesn’t tone things down or speak in platitudes. The 31-year-old often gives insightful tactical responses that give pitchside reporters more than they bargained for.

“Normally we play with two number eights and I think him [Guardiola] he wanted a little more control because of the way he presses,» explained De Bruyne after the potentially title-deciding win against Arsenal last month.

“Then Gundo [Ilkay Gundogan] it would have been a double six and I had to choose the moments more, depending on who was pressing Xhaka and Partey – if Partey was pressing I would try to go on his back and vice versa, and it was difficult for [Rob] Holding and Gabriele.

“[They had to decide] do they have to come with me or are they with Erling? I couldn’t find the moments in the first half, and obviously they changed a bit in the second half, but today I was a little more free.»

He hasn’t spoken to the media since the win over Leeds, but you imagine he would have given an equally eloquent answer on exactly how to go about breaking down a low block.

It’s one thing to know how, but De Bruyne also possesses the ingenuity and technical prowess to put the best plans into action. It’s a lethal combination.

Sorry, we’ll go back and watch the above clip 10 more times to try to figure out how he contorted his body to perform that pass.

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