Kevin De Bruyne’s transformation to a world-class player makes Jose Mourinho look foolish, while Man Utd’s Wayne Rooney problem, the form of Everton under Ronald Koeman and the improvement of the Premier League as a product are also discussed….
De Bruyne form an embarrassment for Mourinho
It’s been no surprise to see Kevin De Bruyne’s scintiliating form this season be the topic of plenty of debate. Alongside Sergio Aguero, he’s probably been the Premier League’s standout player this season and he already looks a good bet to be named Player of the Season, even at this early stage.
Every club has their tales of misfortunate, but with De Bruyne’s injury at a key stage last season, I genuinely believe City might just have had more than just a League Cup success to show for efforts as the curtain closed on the Manuel Pellegrini era.
But if De Bruyne was a great player for City last season, he’s now edging himself well into the world-class bracket and one of the jewels of City’s expensively-assembled crown. It’s a fact that Pep Guardiola recognised when he said the Belgian was ‘in a group of players second only to Lionel Messi’. In effect, the City boss – who you might say knows a thing or two about coaching the world’s best – is putting De Bruyne in the same bracket as the Ronaldos, the Neymars and the Suarezs of this world.
Regardless of what Pep, or any of the pundits will tell you, however, the stats alone during his time at Manchester City tells its own story.
33 – Kevin De Bruyne has now had a hand in 33 goals in 48 games for Man City in all competitions (18 goals, 15 assists). Wonder.
— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) September 17, 2016
In a word, he’s priceless to City and looking a far better player than Paul Pogba (sorry, but comparisons will always be made when you’re the world’s most expensive player) who cost near-enough, when agent’s fee are taken into account, as good as twice the price.
However, for all the good that De Bruyne has done in the blue half of Manchester, there’s no getting away from the fact that his form leaves egg very much on the face of both Chelsea, and his former manager Jose Mourinho.
The Belgian managed just nine first-team appearances during his two years at Chelsea – and you do wonder with his form since for Wolfsburg and now City, what Mourinho and the Chelsea staff didn’t see to afford him more starts?
Granted, Chelsea’s midfield then, as it is now, was packed full of midfield options, but one does wonder why De Bruyne was not given more game time at Stamford Bridge?
Was it pure Mourinho arrogance? Was it his unwillingness to take a chance on talented young talent? Or was it that perhaps Mourinho isn’t quite as good a judge of player as is made out?
Either way, De Bruyne’s current standing in the Premier League – and indeed world football – does not reflect well on Mourinho. If his sale of Romelu Lukaku was an error of judgement, the decision to let De Bruyne move on – albeit for a profit at the time – looks simply unforgiveable.
Premier League on the up?
On the subject of De Bruyne’s form, is it right to assume that the Premier League, as a product in general, is finally back on the incline?
I touched on Aguero earlier and on current form, he too is among one of the world’s most in-form players right now.
But is’s all well and good applauding the highlights we all watch on TV, which with clever editing, can always make players and teams appear better than what they actually are.
In reality, the Premier League’s so-called improvement, will only be measured by how our teams compete on the biggest stage of them: the Champions League.
By the time the final comes around next spring at Cardiff’s Millennium Stadium, it will have been five barren years since England had a finalist (Chelsea in 2012) in Europe’s premier knockout tournament; a far cry from the seven years prior when the country laid claim to having eight finalists, including two in one season.
During the four seasons that elapsed since Chelsea’s success, Italy have had one finalist, Germany two and Spain a domineering five.
Certainly, the Premier League has a long way to go before it can match the brilliance of La Liga, but with England once again boasting the world-record transfer fee (that man Pogba again), and with plenty of the game’s top players and managers winging their way here, it certainly appears – on the surface at least – that the Premier League may be about to compete with some of Europe’s finest once again.
We need to talk about the elephant in the Roon
Wayne Rooney’s ongoing ability to command a regular place in the Manchester United side continues to cause debate after another ineffective performance from the player against Watford.
Our article immediately after the match looked at the way Jose Mourinho had broken his word on the player during the defeat at Watford and why it was such a surprise to see the player picked as one of United’s midfield three alongside Paul Pogba and Marouane Fellaini at Vicarage Road.
But Rooney once again flattered to deceive in his midfield role by failing to create very little and generally struggling to effect the game in his more withdrawn role.
— Kevin Blundell (@kevin_blundell) September 18, 2016
Quite what Rooney has over his managers at Manchester United remains something of a mystery and surely there’s only so long before Mourinho realises that the player is second best as a midfielder, just as he seems to have done about his abilities to play as a central striker.
Paul Scholes said after the match that Mourinho needs to look at the shape and the personnel of Manchester United’s midfield – and he’s right. How can the likes of Michael Carrick and Morgan Schneiderlin be left kicking their heels, while both Rooney and Marouane Fellaini continue to get games? I’m not saying either are the answer, but picking perhaps Carrick and reverting Rooney to the bench has to be an option?
Perhaps then we’d also start to see the best of £89.3million man Pogba too?
Don’t get me wrong, Rooney’s record at Manchester United will always be appreciated and forever be applauded – that cannot, and should not be denied – but he now needs to take a backseat and be used by the team when needed, not, as it seems, have the team built around him.
Credit to Koeman
Poor old Ronald Koeman. His arrival at Everton hardly dominated the column inches this summer, but in just a few short months at Goodison Park, he’s very quickly made his mark.
Whisper it quietly, but Everton are very much a team on the up – but still the club’s ascension to second in the Premier League has failed to generate much attention.
Everton as a whole didn’t need much tinkering with the personnel at the club widely regarded as their most talented bunch in years. Roberto Martinez massively underachieved last season and quite rightly paid the price with his job in the summer.
Koeman has come in and has very quickly done what any good manager should do: organise the team, improve the areas where you are short (Ashley Williams in > John Stones out and for a £35m profit anyone?!), and play to your strengths.
By contrast, compare this to Manchester United where seven matches into the Mourinho era, and the Portuguese coach’s best midfield still remains a mystery….
Everton might not quite be strong enough to sustain their place among the top four come the end of the season, but the good start under Koeman shows they’re very much a team on the rise.