Pep Guardiola tells Kevin De Bruyne why just providing assists isn’t enough for Man City


Kevin De Bruyne will have ‘slept like a baby’ on Saturday night after his performance for Manchester City against Fulham.

That is the opinion of Pep Guardiola, who praised his midfield talisman for another influential performance in the late win over Fulham. City played 65 minutes with ten men following Joao Cancelo’s red card in the first half, which allowed Andreas Pereira to equalise from the penalty spot after Julian Alvarez opened the scoring.

De Bruyne was the man trying to help the ten men grab a winner, and he thought he had another assist when his cross was headed in by Erling Haaland – but the striker was offside. In the 94th minute, though, De Bruyne tempted a foul in the area, and Haaland converted the penalty to spark wild celebrations inside the Etihad.

De Bruyne’s match-winning contribution follows his influential performance off the bench against Sevilla and his brilliant winner against Leicester, after which Guardiola had declared the Belgian as ‘back’ following previous criticism the week before when the manager said his no.17 could still be better.

Guardiola says De Bruyne will be far happier for his performances since his criticism, but argued his media comments won’t have affected the midfielder. De Bruyne himself said after the Leicester win that he didn’t take the challenge as criticism, but felt he was performing at a high level.

So to explain his thought process, Guardiola said he is far happier with De Bruyne when he’s playing freely, explaining how simply assisting teammates isn’t an appropriate gauge on his performances.

“Do you think he responds because of what I say here?” Guardiola asked.

“Kevin cannot play for seven seasons like he did today. Sometimes he plays another level, I know that. But I don’t want to be confused, ‘oh Kevin De Bruyne assists, goals.’ I know it. Today he won the penalty his natural way. I want his movements, his influence in the team.

“When Kevin is involved in this situation we are a better team. I don’t want to see the Kevin De Bruyne in the Bernabeu second leg [vs Real Madrid, Champions League], I don’t want to see the Kevin De Bruyne in the Champions League final against Chelsea. He wasn’t involved. He didn’t touch two balls.

“It depends on him, the freedom to have the movements. When this happens, he’s happier. Today and against Leicester he’s happier than the play before. Maybe he gets Man of the Match or makes an assist. He can make an assist all the time. Today he was not just assists, not just a goal. He was there.

“This is what I want as a manager. Today he will sleep like a baby. 100 per cent, happier, tired, like a baby. People highlight his perfect assists, it’s not enough. I know them, you have to understand me, seven seasons together. I know them quite well.”


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