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“I still feel confident!” – City’s Kevin De Bruyne responds to Pep Guardiola’s ‘bad’ criticism

Pep Guardiola last week said Manchester City talisman Kevin De Bruyne can be better, before declaring he was ‘back’ after scoring at Leicester.

 

Kevin De Bruyne has laughed off his manager’s criticism that he can still improve for Manchester City, saying he is happy with his current form and didn’t take the comments as a negative thing.

De Bruyne has scored two brilliant goals in as many games, adding a wonderful match-winning free kick at Leicester to his curler vs Brighton that settled an open game.

After that goal against Brighton, which followed the Belgian being named in second place in the 2022 Balon d’Or, Pep Guardiola raised eyebrows by saying he thought De Bruyne wasn’t playing at his best and can be better. A week later, when De Bruyne’s free-kick was the difference in City beating Leicester, Guardiola declared the Belgian was ‘back.’

Speaking after the game, De Bruyne acknowledged his manager’s criticism, but said he felt he was playing well and was confident in his contributions to the team.

Laughing when Guardiola’s comments were put to him, De Bruyne said: “I don’t know. I tried to play as good as possible! We play so many games and it is so hectic, the schedule so difficult, some games are better than others.

“I am fairly happy with the way I play. Can you do better? Yes, of course. But I do not take it too much as criticism. You just want to be the best version of yourself you can be. I still feel confident in what I am doing.

“We had a brief conversation but not a big one. Just the usual stuff.”

“I think some games have gone really well and sometimes a little bit less, but the schedule is so hard, we play so many games and we travel everywhere. You have to calculate everything. Like this week, if you don’t really play in Dortmund, then it is like two and a half training sessions in a week, so coming back into a rhythm is never that easy. I like rhythm as a player, but I am used to the changes and the rotation of the team. I am not too worried, If I can do better then it is good. I try to do the best I can.”

Reflecting on his winner against Leicester, De Bruyne said: “It is a free-kick, you know. It is all or nothing. You try to hit it as sweetly as possible and today it goes in perfectly well. Sometimes it happens and sometimes it doesn’t. And when it goes in like that, all good.

“I don’t think I shoot more in one game or another. It depends. Today I had more options to shoot and sometimes I try to choose the right option. It depends on what happens. I am quite happy with the choices I make even if sometimes it is the wrong decision.”

And with City keeping the pressure on Arsenal at the top of the Premier League, looking to end the first part of the season in first place before the World Cup, De Bruyne said the task for City is straightforward.

“We need to look at the way we try to keep winning. We have two games left in the League and we will try to win those,” he said.

“We have done what we have needed to and had a great first part. Hopefully the second part comes and it will be a new season.

Jack Grealish moment of instinct shows what Man City fans have been crying out for

 

De Bruyne reminds Haaland who’s boss

Without Erling Haaland, and with Phil Foden on the bench, there were legitimate questions about who could be Manchester City’s match-winner at Leicester. Julian Alvarez hasn’t shown enough yet to fill fans with confidence that he can be that man, and the line-up looked like one set up to contain rather than attack with much flair.

The first half followed that pattern, with Haaland feeling like a big miss, but when Kevin De Bruyne stroked a fine free-kick into the top corner off the post shortly into the second period, it was a reminder that he remains City’s main man and creator of big moments when they need him most. Haaland tweeted his appreciation for De Bruyne’s goal, although he will have heard De Bruyne’s own message loud and clear.

Grealish’s unseen role in goal

For the first half, Jack Grealish did the same thing every time he got the ball: bring it forward, see no options available, and check back to recycle possession. In a game where City had to force the issue, Grealish often declined the chance to drive with the ball to instead keep possession. It’s what he’s asked to do, and regularly does well, but sometimes slowed a painfully-slow game down even further.

So in the second half, when Grealish was the furthest man forward, with no support, he had no alternative but to keep running. He did exactly that, dropped a shoulder, and Leicester had no choice but to bring him down. From the free-kick, De Bruyne found the top corner and broke the hosts’ stubborn resistance, winning the game for City. It would have been impossible without Grealish taking the shackles off and running at the defence – something fans have been urging him to do all season.

Tactics struggle without Haaland

City encountered a new problem at Leicester that they haven’t faced before this season – how to attack without Haaland. The only other time he hasn’t started saw a red card 30 minutes in force any attacking intent to be abandoned in Copenhagen, and other times Haaland has been replaced, the need for pushing forward hasn’t been imperative.

So with Haaland out against Leicester, City played Julian Alvarez, who Pep Guardiola assured reporters would have scored plenty more than his current four goals had he played more. His chances at Leicester were limited with City still putting aerial balls into the box where Haaland usually is – but Alvarez had no chance against the much taller duo of Wout Faes and Caglar Soyuncu. When they did play the ball on the floor to Alvarez, they got in behind – but they didn’t do it too often.

Alvarez misses chance to prove Guardiola right

With Leicester camping incredibly deep throughout, there was little space for Alvarez to work with as he looked to make the most of his first Premier League start on his own without Haaland. His one chance in the first half saw an angled shot well saved before the flag went up, but most balls into the box were over his head rather than into his feet.

He cannot be accused of not running or not chasing every lost cause, however, he struggled to make anything himself against Leicester’s imposing back-five and it was telling he was replaced when Guardiola went in search of a second goal to kill the game. Maybe against Sevilla, with nothing riding on the result, he can get more space to operate in a game that may play to his strengths. For now, though, there was no sign of the goals Guardiola insisted would come if he played more often.

Who’s earned a rest vs Sevilla?

City have no need to play any key men against Sevilla this week with all places in the Champions League group decided. So expect the likes of De Bruyne, Joao Cancelo and maybe Rodri to get a night off on Wednesday. Others, like Bernardo Silva and Ilkay Gundogan, might be given reduced roles to limit their minutes.

In defence, maybe John Stones will drop to the bench after two consecutive starts, while Manuel Akanji has played a part in most games recently. Alvarez will surely get another chance to lead the line as there’s no need to rush Haaland back, while Grealish may eye a chance to get a goal to build on recent form.

Source: manchestereveningnews

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