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Manchester City - Football: Analysing Kevin De Bruyne's role at the Etihad

The best players in the world have often been capable of playing multiple positions and that has certainly been the case with Manchester City's Kevin De Bruyne.

Birthday boy De Bruyne has just turned 31, but shows no signs of slowing down and has maintained the excellence which once persuaded Guardiola to describe him as the best midfield player in the world.

Citizens head coach Guardiola is renowned for favouring a squad rotation policy and will often take a tactical decision to leave out a high-profile player for one of the big occasions.

However, in the case of Belgian ace De Bruyne, his main consideration is where best to utilise the player, whether that be as a central midfielder, a wide midfielder, an attacking midfielder, a winger or maybe as 'false nine'.

Fitness permitting, he almost always starts the big games and he usually delivers, but his role will continue to vary depending on what is required by Guardiola, whose side are 4/7 to win a third straight Premier League title next season.

Fleeting false nine outings could continue

Working out De Bruyne's best position is an almost impossible task, because he can play most of the attacking roles better than anybody else.

It has been speculated that he could be deployed less often as a false nine, simply because City have only just splashed out on a marquee centre-forward, Erling Haaland, who is 7/2 to be leading Premier League goalscorer next season.

However, City have played without a centre-forward for the best part of two seasons, with Sergio Aguero featuring far less often in 2020-21 and then leaving in the summer of 2021.

And De Bruyne was one of their better solutions, especially in high-profile matches -a season and a half ago he played the position superbly in a 3-1 success at Chelsea.

It was one of City's best performances of the season and was largely orchestrated by De Bruyne, who contributed an assist and a goal in a player-of-the-match performance.

De Bruyne has also got used to playing further forward in big Champions League games and there are likely to be moments when he is deployed in a similar way.

Guardiola may well want to manage Haaland's minutes and that is set to mean fielding a more fluid frontline, especially as 11/4 City aim to finally triumph in the Champions League.

Midfield flexibility will continue to be utilised

The main reason it is so hard to pigeon-hole De Bruyne is that he has such a varied skill-set.

Play him in a wider position and he will produce a more accurate delivery than anybody in the Premier League.

Sit him centrally and slightly deeper and he will control the game from there, knowing when to burst forward, when to attempt a defence-splitting pass and when to simply take the sting out of a game and retain possession.

And, wherever he plays, he can always be relied upon from set-piece situations, whether it is providing a deadly delivery or a direct attempt on goal.

Perhaps one of his lesser-known qualities is the defensive side of the game. Watching City play live, one of the most noticeable aspects is their incessant work-rate off the ball and De Bruyne is as busy as anyone.

The intensity of his closing down is a key reason why he has done so well in more advanced positions and why he can play so many different roles without any negative impact on the team's structure.

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The statistics speak for themselves

While it is easy to marvel at De Bruyne's quality, he is also somebody who simply delivers when it comes to match-winning moments.

And he seems to be getting better with age, having won the PFA Players Player of the Year award twice in the last three seasons (2019-20 and 2020-21).

The Belgian lost out to Mohamed Salah last season, but had another stellar campaign and was City's player of the season for the fourth time in the last seven campaigns.

Quite simply he has been the best player for the Premier League's most successful club in recent times and there are no signs of his standards waning.

He sits joint eighth on the all-time list of Premier League assists with 86 and his total of 20 assists in the 2019-20 season equalled a record established by Thierry Henry in the 2002-03 campaign.

He has also been a regular Premier League scorer with 57 netted in 207 appearances and his appetite for goals seems to be increasing, because his 15-goal contribution last term was his highest since arriving at the club in 2015.

Given his high standards and professionalism, there should be plenty more to come and it would be no surprise if more personal accolades were achieved by the end of next season.

However, De Bruyne is first and foremost a team player and he will be getting ready to play in a variety of roles as City look to continue their quest for more major silverware.

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