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Playmaker leader De Bruyne set for historic season

Adrian Clarke 25 Sep 2022

Adrian Clarke on why Man City midfielder is on course for a record-breaking number of assists

Kevin De Bruyne is on course to produce more assists this season than we have ever seen in a single Premier League campaign.

The Manchester City midfielder currently holds the joint-record alongside Arsenal legend Thierry Henry, after creating 20 goals in 2019/20.  

But with six assists already and a flourishing partnership with top scorer Erling Haaland, the Belgian looks capable of setting a new benchmark and winning the Playmaker award for the third time in its six-season history.

Most assists this season
Player Assists
De Bruyne 6
Saka 4
Eight players 3

The City star's form has been electric.

Playing on the right of a midfield three but also given freedom to roam, De Bruyne has been the division's most creative individual.

No one has come close to matching his total of eight big chances laid on for his team-mates so far..

De Bruyne also leads the way for overall chances created, making one more key pass than Mohamed Salah, the winner of last season's Playmaker award.

Most creative players 2022/23
Big chances created Chances created
De Bruyne 8 De Bruyne 25
Gross 5 Salah 24
Toney 4 Harrison 18
Tielemans 4 Martinelli 16
Mbeumo 4 Ward-Prowse 16
Harrison 4 Gundogan 16

De Bruyne's last three assists have all been unerringly similar in style.

At Wolverhampton Wanderers last time out, he overlapped Phil Foden to cross low for Jack Grealish to score inside the six-yard box.

Later in the same contest he raced around Haaland from the same kind of area to cross low for Foden to finish.

De Bruyne's assist for Foden

In the match before that, against Aston Villa, De Bruyne overlapped Bernardo Silva before crossing for Haaland.

When he times those dynamic in-to-out runs properly, the 31-year-old is hard to track, and his quality from that right-wing position is among the best in the world.

Precision passes

De Bruyne's other world-class forte is his ability to execute precise through-balls.

His first three assists of the campaign came this way.

He opened his account with a sublime defence-splitting pass for Haaland to race on to at West Ham United.

That was followed by a pair of passes for Foden and Ilkay Gundogan, against AFC Bournemouth, and Newcastle United respectively.

Surrounded by wonderful finishers and team-mates who produce such outstanding movement almost guarantees a player of De Bruyne’s ability a stack of assists.

De Bruyne's crossing stats
Season Open-play crosses/90 Rank Open-play cross acc. %
2019/20 5.21 4th 16.05%
2020/21 2.88 31st 17.19%
2021/22 3.88 9th 13.68%
2022/23 5.83 2nd 25.71%

De Bruyne has always been a fantastic crosser from the right but during the early stages of 2022/23 he has taken this aspect of his game to a higher level.

He has produced 35 open-play deliveries, second only to the 38 of Liverpool's Trent Alexander-Arnold.

And the accuracy of those crosses has been superb, with a much improved 25.71 per cent being completed.

The Haaland factor

The presence of Haaland is a factor in that rise.

Now he has a natural centre-forward rather than a "false nine" to aim for, it is no surprise De Bruyne's crossing stats have improved.

In 2019/20, when he created 20 goals, De Bruyne was in sensational form from wide areas, averaging over five open-play crosses per match.

It seems he wants to follow that lead this season, with that number increasing to nearly six per match.

Provided he steers clear of injuries, it would be no surprise if De Bruyne breaks his own record this term to collect a third Premier League Golden Playmaker award.

This could be the season of his life.

Also in this series

Part 1: Golden Boot: Haaland on course to smash Salah's record
Part 2: Will Ederson claim Golden Glove with record low?

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