Following his impressive goals against Manchester United and Barcelona, much is being made of Kevin De Bruyne’s ability. Unquestionably he remains one of the best players in the Premier League, but until he can continue his season in a consistent fashion, then he will be over-rated and considered beneath the hierarchy of great players in European football.
It’s difficult to be critical of De Bruyne, and it remains a subject untouched by many football writers. Nonetheless, his performances since the dazzling display he produced in the Manchester derby have many needing to ask why he is failing to deliver on a consistent basis when his ability is evident.
Against United and Bournemouth, fans were graced with arguably two of the best individual performances this season. The Belgian is regularly City’s most impressive performer and showed that on some occasions.
After an injury in mid-September, the Belgian returned to action just two weeks later and was practically non-existent for the Blues until Barcelona came to town last Tuesday. Why did it take nearly a month for De Bruyne to reproduce at the highest level?
His destruction of Barcelona left many fans in awe at his performance, but just days later against Middlesbrough, he provided a cross for Sergio Aguero to score the opener, but had little impact on the match, once again. He struggled to cope with the stern Boro defence and even missed an open goal moments before Aitor Karanka’s team snatched a point away with a last-minute header. How often do Alexis Sanchez, Diego Costa, Antoine Griezmann or Gareth Bale miss those sorts of chances?
People may be questioning why you would be critical of a player who performs against big teams, but three points against Boro is the same the three on offer for beating Manchester United.
Cristiano Ronaldo and Luis Suarez had similar tags during their time in England, but both were nothing other than myth. Against teams like Boro and West Brom, you require your keys players to dig deep and produce superior performances. And De Bruyne is regularly failing to do so when smaller opposition come to town.
The statistics back up the argument. According to WhoScored.com, De Bruyne has produced an average match rating of 8.34 against United, Monchengladbach and Barcelona – arguably City’s three biggest victories all season. However, in results against West Ham, Everton, Stoke and Sunderland, a markedly lower 6.87 is De Bruyne’s average.
On the contrary, this is the polar opposite to the reputation De Bruyne had when he joined City in August 2015. He was renowned for struggling to produce when the team dearly required against title contenders. But surely De Bruyne must accept his performances against the smaller teams need to be consistently on-par before anyone can judge him with, for example, some of La Liga’s greatest players.
Once again, it’s a compliment within the criticism that De Bruyne has shrugged off the tag of failing to produce against bigger opposition. The calendar year of 2016 has proven he is no slouch when the big boys come to play, but despite this, to be considered the best in the business like many feel he is, he needs to provide a more consistent performance weekly.