Kevin De Bruyne and the half space: Manchester City’s key weapon

Kevin De Bruyne’s return to fitness is giving Manchester City a new dimension as a result of his trademark ability to harness the’half distances‘, writes Adam Bate. The Belgium midfielder is creating the better…
Kevin De Bruyne became the first player to register a hat-trick of aids in one Euro 2020 qualifier during Belgium’s 4-0 win against Scotland. It took him only 32 minutes. That’s eight assists this year. He has only played six games. Following a campaign last time out, De Bruyne is back and no one seems to be able to cope.
That the midfielder started only 11 Premier League matches for Manchester City last year didn’t prove a problem for Pep Guardiola’s side. The trainer found answers winning their final nine without him. While Ilkay Gundogan played in a role away to Everton and Manchester United bernardo Silva moved inside for six of them.
And yet, impressive as it may seem given their absurdly-high standards, De Bruyne nevertheless offers something more. That was apparent. With him back doing his thing in that right-inside station – an area which may reasonably be known as the De Bruyne zone – City have added to their powerful assortment of ways teams can hurt.
From the particular zone, the cross was delivered by De Bruyne against Tottenham for the introduction goal of Raheem Sterling. Spurs might have been able to get away with standing another player in that position off but he punished themthumping a ball which cut the defenders and sparking a discussion in where he ranks among the game crossers.
„He was unplayable,“ Gary Neville told Sky Sports. „It took me back to playing with the best crosser of the ball that I played with, David Beckham. De Bruyne is repeating the amount of quality and precision with that inside-right channel that Beckham made for United and that isn’t something I believed I would see again in the Premier League for a long time.“
De Bruyne is not a clear candidate since he is not a winger. As can be observed from his map that was shot-assist up to now this season, not one of his deliveries to the box also have come from the touch-line or close to it. Rather, De Bruyne spans – or, to be more accurate, passes – the ball in from a area. He is the master of the half area.
The half space has long been a staple of coaching courses with Guardiola. The City trainer is known to divide the pitch and put emphasis. Possibilities that are greater are offered by the half spaces compared to the freedom compared to principal zones.
Getting his group on the ball within this area is one of Guardiola thoughts. „Firstly, we seem wide,“ he has explained. „It is hopeless when teams are hitting heavy to be thin.“ But this width frequently comes from the forward, opening up distance between the full-back and also the centre-back to be manipulated with underlapping complex or full-backs midfielders.
Nobody does this as well as De Bruyne. He does it in more ways than you. The next goal against Tottenham saw him dart in supporting to set Sergio Aguero up. He chose to streak his team-mate to break with the line that was back before picking out Aguero with a square fold – the striker.
De Bruyne has got the running capability of a full-back but increased quality when he has in such positions. He’s got the ability of David Silva but with that to arrive, pace. Guardiola has cited this as one of the reasons for a change of approach. „When we have players like… Kevin De Bruyne we assault more the spaces.“
Occasionally, of course, there is not that distance in supporting where to operate. „When teams are defending deep there aren’t numerous yards to strike them“ Guardiola has explained. It’s a problem that has stifled a number of City’s competitions with Manchester United, specifically, inducing the quality to pick out when faced with a packed defence that killer pass.
City find a way and De Bruyne’s opening assist from the distance against Spurs had been an example of that extra dimension he brings. The ability to hurt teams in two manners that are different gives him – and City – the edge. Give him room and advantage will be taken by him. Back off and give him the time to pick his spot and he is equally too devastating.
De Bruyne has generated 16 chances so far this year, the most by any player in the Premier League. He has five assists in the contest so far. Silva has four. Nobody else at the Premier League has more than just two. It owes much to the quality of the group in obviously, and also to the ability of the forward of Manchester City.
But additionally, it reflects how they’ve mastered what would have been regarded as a position – that role as’complimentary eights‘ inside Guardiola’s system. Not forwards but ready to locate space behind the opposition midfield. „The aim is to play from the back and scroll it to me and David, thus we can be five against four,“ says De Bruyne.
Norwich will be the team that will face that challenge Saturday. It isn’t clear how they’ll have the ability to deal with it. Try to defend with a greater line or using the full-backs pushed and De Bruyne will wish to break through. Defend heavy and Norwich danger giving too much independence to him.
„I think that it’s getting to a point now where you cannot allow De Bruyne to this area about the correct,“ said Neville. „You need to take care of the threat, which is De Bruyne. He is good from that position. Teams need to stop him defending a little unconventionally.“ The issue of both also the half space and De Bruyne is currently well known. The search for a solution persists.