The 36 goals Arsenal have conceded in their 28 games this season isn’t a pretty sight. They have struggled to find form this season and quite a few of their problems stem from their shaky defense. Their 13 errors have led to goals, the highest in the Premier League. Now when you add Manchester City and more specifically Kevin De Bruyne (the best player in the Premier League and the undisputed best midfielder in the world) to the mix, things start taking a darker turn for Arsenal.
If they were to give the ball away in the final third, Kevin De Bruyne, Manchester City’s architect, with his 16 assists, 23 big chances created and 82 accurate through balls this season, is sure to make them pay. If Arsenal were to start in a 4-2-3-1 formation, De Bruyne could wreak havoc in between the lines.
It is probable that the center halves will be 2 of – David Luiz, Sokratis Papastathopoulos, Skhodran Mustafi and new signing Pablo Mari, behind the likes of Xhaka and Torreira, who aren’t exactly known for their passing ability.
An aspect of Kevin De Bruyne that goes under the radar is the defensive shift he puts in as well as his work-rate when the opposition is in possession. Unlike the modern day number 10, De Bruyne works efficiently and effectively on the back foot, with 12 interceptions, great defensive awareness, 100 duels as well as 37 50/50s won. This shows that he doesn’t simply wait for the ball to be delivered to him and can act as a ball winning midfielder for his team as well.
If he were to either receive the ball or win it back in that space between the center backs and the holding midfielders, then Arsenal will find it difficult to deal with a player who is essentially the best in the world at creating space. To add to Arsenal’s woes, exists the fact that the concept of the ‘weak foot’ is completely obsolete in the case of De Bruyne. He is equally proficient with both feet and has the ability to find the top corner with either his left or right foot. He has hit the wood-work 4 times this season and is confident enough to take shots often.
If the reverse fixture is anything to go by, Arsenal will be paying much closer attention to De Bruyne, seeing that he ran the show with 2 goals in City’s 3-0 win at the Emirates back in December. The Belgian is well on his way to break Arsenal icon Thierry Henry’s assist record (20 assists) and will be looking to add to his tally of 16 against the Gunners. Retaining their legend’s record should prove as added motivation for Arsenal as they will be aiming to avoid a second De Bruyne masterclass this season.
With the close relationship Guardiola and Arteta shared, maybe Arsenal will find a way to neutralize the mercurial Kevin De Bruyne which might prove to be the key to stopping Pep’s juggernaut. However if they are unable to do so, and De Bruyne is allowed to slip into gear, then Arsenal and Arteta may have to invoke some lady luck in order to get a result.
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