This is not the news Manchester City fans were expecting at this point in the season. Kevin De Bruyne is injured again. This time the Belgian is set for a four to six weeks lay-off due to a hamstring problem suffered against Aston Villa. For a player that has been at the middle of City’s success in the last few years, there is only one question at this point.
How will Manchester City cope without him?
Just last week, the midfielder was heralded for his moment of magic that created the opening goal to break the deadlock against Crystal Palace before City went on to thump the Eagles 4-0. By doing so De Bruyne took his tally of assists in the City shirt to 100, a landmark achievement. With City now poised to take the driver’s seat in the title race, much was and is still expected of Pep Guardiola and his men moving forward.
The Blues started the campaign on a rather shaky note. But the team has grown in confidence as the season has progressed. Eight clean sheets in the last 10 Premier League matches losing none speak of a team in form and ready to reclaim the league title. De Bruyne has been crucial to this resurgence with only Ruben Dias and the reborn John Stones rivalling him for praise.
The last ten games in all competitions have seen the Belgian score once, grab five assists and three Man of the Match awards. He is easily City’s best player and the fulcrum of the team. To put it straight-forward, he is irreplaceable.
No other player in the team can replicate his performance. That underscores his importance to the club and the reason a contract extension is in the offing.
But City must find a way to cope with his absence for the next four to six weeks. He is set to miss up to nine games starting with Saturday’s FA Cup clash against League Two Cheltenham Town.
The other games include a trip to Liverpool and the Champions League first leg against Borussia Monchengladbach. Only a quick recovery will prevent him from also missing the potential pivotal game against title rivals Manchester United on March 6.
Some of these games could affect City’s season as a whole.
Fortunately, we have a manager in Guardiola who is capable of thinking outside of the box to solve problems. Although the Catalan boss has acknowledged the problem De Bruyne’s injury poses, he has also promised to find a solution.
“Kevin, like the doctor said today after reviewing the scan, will be four to six weeks out.
“It’s a big blow, isn’t it? It is, but we have to move forward.
“I’m not saying anything that anyone doesn’t know, it is unfortunate for him and for us and we have to find a solution because everyone in their own life is struggling in the situation we are living and we have to adapt,” Guardiola said.
Hopefully, other players can also step up to fill the void left by the 29-year-old. The likes of Ilkay Gundogan, Phil Foden and Bernardo Silva will be crucial in this regard. Their recent form has been impressive with the Germany international scoring in five of his last eight games for City.
Foden has also scored four times, grabbed two assists and two Man of the Match awards in his last ten games. Silva’s two goals against Birmingham in the FA Cup earned him a Man of the Match award. The Portuguese seems to be hitting top form at the right time as he ended his Premier League goal drought against Aston Villa within the week.
With the defence sorted out, the midfield and attack must step up to maintain the team’s new-found consistency.
Guardiola will need to also get his forward line firing on all cylinders with both Gabriel Jesus and Sergio Aguero yet to leave an imprint on the team this season. That sorted with Raheem Sterling and Riyad Mahrez also playing key roles, City should cope just fine until the Belgian powerhouse returns.