Following a wealth of rumours on Twitter it was confirmed by Manchester City on Wednesday that star midfielder Kevin De Bruyne has suffered a knee injury, and while we’re still waiting to hear exactly how long the 27-year-old will be out for, there are claims that his absence could span up to four months.
Fortunately, City’s fixture list during that time isn’t the toughest but the Belgium international no doubt leaves an almighty void to fill in Pep Guardiola’s midfield – he bagged twelve goals and 21 assists last season and was the driving force in City’s engine room en route to the Premier League title.
So, who should Guardiola turn to as De Bruyne’s replacement in the coming weeks? Football FanCast look at four potential solutions…
Foden is no doubt City’s most exciting academy product for a generation and after providing glimpses of his potential last season the youngster really showcased himself in the Community Shield against Chelsea, setting up Sergio Aguero’s first goal in a dynamic and creative midfield display.
City fans would love to see the 18-year-old involved more frequently and De Bruyne’s absence would obviously facilitate that, but is he ready to start week-in, week-out just yet? To date he’s made just eleven competitive appearances at senior level and especially considering the intensity of City’s play, regular football could be just too great a physical burden at this stage of his career.
Because of how exceptional Silva and De Bruyne have been for City under Guardiola, Bernardo Silva’s spent the majority of his time at the Etihad Stadium out wide. The Portugal international knows how to impact the game from that position but a more central role is no doubt where his future lies – many, in fact, are tipping him to become his midfield namesake’s eventual successor.
This would be the perfect opportunity to prove he’s up to the task while learning a few things off Silva as well by playing directly next to him in the engine room. However, although the absence of physicality in the middle of the park was hardly a problem for City last term, playing Silva alongside Silva will leave them a little more open and a little less dynamic – neither can drive from back to front with the ball in quite the same way as De Bruyne.
Riyad Mahrez – who Transfermarkt value at £54million – is still bedding into this City team but his early performances on the wing haven’t been hugely encouraging, and he did actually feature more centrally in a few of the pre-season games – suggesting a change in position is already in Guardiola’s thoughts.
The Algerian international would certainly be able to help fill De Bruyne’s void in terms of output and firepower – albeit from considerably more starts, he far outweighed Bernardo Silva for goals and assists in the Premier League last season – but once again, it’s a question of how using a winger in a more central capacity will affect City’s efforts off the ball.
That’s never been Guardiola’s chief concern but ignoring it completely will leave City susceptible to counter-attacks and Fernandinho particularly facing a monumental task as the midfield anchor. It would no doubt be a gamble for City, but one that could pay off if Mahrez can rediscover his Leicester City form.
The safest and most logical option. We probably haven’t seen the best of Ilkay Gundogan in a Manchester City shirt, at least not in lengthy doses, and this could be his time to show he’s just as capable as Guardiola’s preferred midfield options.
There’s no doubting the German international’s ability and although injuries have affected his playing style to some degree, if he can replicate the buccaneering, dynamic midfield performances of his Dortmund days he could quickly establish himself as a key part of the starting XI in De Bruyne’s absence.
But Gundogan has never been much of a goal-getter, never scoring more than six times in a season before, so if its netting prowess Guardiola wants then he should be looking elsewhere in the squad.
So, City fans, who do you think is the best option to fill De Bruyne’s void? Let us know by voting below…