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Can De Bruyne stay ahead of Arsenal duo in Playmaker race?

29 Mar 2023

Man City midfielder remains the frontrunner for award, but Saka and Trossard are closing in

Kevin De Bruyne is under increasing pressure from Arsenal duo Bukayo Saka and Leandro Trossard as he seeks to maintain his dominance over the Castrol Playmaker Award.

The Manchester City midfielder is looking to end the season with the most Premier League assists for the third time in six campaigns, having topped the chart in 2017/18 and 2019/20.

See: Playmaker award winners

De Bruyne is in front this season too, having set up 12 goals, but his lead is shrinking as the race looks set to go to the wire.

Race for the Playmaker award
Player Assists Fixtures to play
Kevin De Bruyne 12 11
Bukayo Saka 10 10
Leandro Trossard 8 10
Christian Eriksen 7 12
Mohamed Salah 7 12

De Bruyne began this season in scintillating form, producing nine assists in his first nine appearances and looking well on course to break his joint-record total of 20 in a Premier League campaign.

However, the rate of the Belgian's assists has slowed dramatically, and he has created just three more goals since mid-October, with his last coming in February's 3-1 win at Arsenal.

Conversely, his nearest challengers from the Gunners have picked up the pace.

Saka has produced two assists in his last four matches, moving two adrift of De Bruyne's total.

And behind him, team-mate Trossard is coming like a train after joining Arsenal in January, surging into contention by setting up six goals in his last five appearances.

That tally includes a hat-trick of assists in this month's 3-0 win at Fulham, as the Belgian became the first Premier League player to set up three goals in the first half of an away match.

Mohamed Salah, who won last season's Playmaker award, is also in contention with seven assists and has more fixtures to play than the trio ahead of him in the race. Christian Eriksen is level with Salah but has been sidelined for two months by injury.

Could rotation affect De Bruyne?

De Bruyne has the advantage of a match in hand on his Arsenal rivals, but he and his Man City team-mates are fighting on three fronts, in the league, the UEFA Champions League (UCL) and the FA Cup (FAC).

Given Pep Guardiola's famed rotation policy, De Bruyne's Premier League minutes could be reduced, giving an edge to Saka and Trossard in the Playmaker race.

Indeed, De Bruyne has only started five of City's last nine league matches, completing only one full 90 minutes.

Similarly, Trossard must wait to see what the return of Gabriel Jesus from injury will mean for his pitch time in Arsenal's attack.

Schedule for Playmaker contenders
  De Bruyne Saka & Trossard
1 Apr Liverpool (H) PL  Leeds (H) PL
8/9 Apr Southampton (A) PL Liverpool (A) PL
11 Apr Bayern Munich (H) UCL  
15/16 Apr Leicester (H) PL West Ham (A) PL
19 Apr Bayern Munich (A) UCL  
21/22 Apr Sheff Utd (H) FAC Southampton (H) PL
26 Apr Arsenal (H) PL Man City (A) PL

When it comes to comparing the difficulty of the top contenders' Premier League fixtures, they have similar runs over the next month.

Both Man City and Arsenal face Liverpool in the coming days, plus Southampton and other teams battling relegation.

Arsenal meet Leeds United and West Ham United, while Man City host Leicester City.

De Bruyne will then go head-to-head with Saka and Trossard in a mouthwatering showdown at the Etihad Stadium, which could be pivotal for both the title race and Playmaker award.

Also in this series

Part 1: Haaland closes in on three records as he eyes Golden Boot
Part 2: Race for Golden Glove set for thrilling finale

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