EPL

Barnstorming De Bruyne bullies gutless Gunners as Foden succeeds in Silva's place

By Sports Desk December 15, 2019

There was a time when the thought of Manchester City without David Silva would have left supporters in a nervous sweat, such has been his influence and impact in the Premier League.

The crafty Spaniard will arguably go down as the greatest import in Premier League history, with his technical and passing abilities almost unrivalled, while he has enjoyed incredible success with City.

Yet, if Sunday's exceptional 3-0 demolition of Arsenal proved anything about City, it's that their midfield now looks better without Silva, who will depart at the end of the season.

One man stood out in particular in north London.

After the whistle was blown to signify the end of the first half at Emirates Stadium, Kevin De Bruyne ambled towards the tunnel appearing typically expressionless – his face showing no hint of acknowledgement of what he had just done to Arsenal.

It was an absolute masterclass from the barnstorming Belgian, whose trademark blend of emphatic power and technical wizardry left the Gunners utterly helpless.

The first goal, just 89 seconds into the match, was quintessential De Bruyne. Receiving Gabriel Jesus' cut-back as it sat up for him, he found the roof of the net with a finish that seemed to defy the laws of physics, picking up remarkable speed despite it being a controlled, side-footed strike.

That was just the tip of the iceberg, however.

There was a purpose and relentlessness to De Bruyne's performance that gave the impression he was playing with a vengeance, like he'd been wronged and was out to exact revenge by imposing misery on the hosts.

That drive was plain to see when creating City's second goal, exchanging passes with Jesus before darting forward with three defenders for company and squaring to Raheem Sterling for an easy finish.

But there was even more to that goal than De Bruyne just running very fast in a straight line and then passing. The move began just outside City's own penalty area, with Rodrigo doing brilliantly under pressure before Phil Foden took several out of the equation with a line-breaking pass.

It was a fitting involvement from the 19-year-old, who was making his first Premier League start of the season in place of the injured Silva.

Many had long been calling out for Foden to secure a place in the starting XI ahead of Silva, who by his own standards has been underwhelming this term.

The talented England Under-21 international quietly went about his business during the first half, often filling the half spaces towards the flanks. Although by no means devastating, almost every time Foden got the ball he looked capable of picking through Arsenal's midfield line.

He did just that when setting up De Bruyne's gorgeous second, turning cleverly and darting into space before nudging possession to the Belgian, who sumptuously found the bottom-left corner.

History almost repeated itself late in the half, the same pair combining – only this time Bernd Leno displayed a comparable level of brilliance with an astonishing save, tipping De Bruyne's strike on to the post.

With De Bruyne's ruthlessness, Foden's nous for finding dangerous spaces and Rodri's authoritative conducting, City's midfield looks set for the foreseeable future.

Though Pep Guardiola's use of Foden does continue to puzzle.

The decision to withdraw him in the 56th minute when 3-0 up against a team with barely a modicum of mental fortitude was eyebrow-raising, particularly given Guardiola's regular backing of Foden as Silva's so-called heir.

Foden's ability has even led Guardiola to lauding him as the greatest young player he's ever worked with. This from the man who coached Lionel Messi during his early years.

If Foden even gets close to De Bruyne's standard, City fans will consider themselves extremely fortunate, as on Sunday's evidence there are few better than the Belgian.

In De Bruyne and Foden, City have a creative hub that could dominate for years – but Guardiola needs to let go of the reins if the latter is to succeed Silva and reach the level he appears destined for.

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