Kevin De Bruyne’s absence hints at Manchester City being a ‘one-man team’

Manchester City's form dips considerably when Kevin de Bruyne is not on the pitch - as seen in his side's shock FA Cup exit at the hands of Wigan Athletic. (REUTERS)
Updated 20 February 2018
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Kevin De Bruyne’s absence hints at Manchester City being a ‘one-man team’

LONDON: Considering last week it was reported that they have the most expensive squad in history, it may seem strange to suggest that Manchester City are a one-man team. But on the evidence of their shock FA Cup exit to Wigan that is exactly what they appear to be.
Any game that Pep Guardiola starts without Kevin De Bruyne is viewed as a bit of a gamble, and despite Wigan being stuck in League One — two divisions below City — that was never more apparent than on Monday night. With their Belgian talisman sat on the bench City started hesitantly and Wigan were able to stand up to the team that has steamrollered over opponents this season. In attack the moneybags club stuttered and at times the minnows looked comfortable in dealing with the threat Sergio Aguero, David Silva and Leroy Sane — all world-class payers — posed.
It was not until 60 minutes that De Bruyne got on the pitch as as soon as he did it was clear for all to see that he was the man his teammates sought out, looking for him at every opportunity. Whereas in the first hour City looked short of ideas, for the final 30 minutes they looked sharp and the Belgian was at the heart of everything good about their play.
While the idea that they are a one-man team may be viewed as far-fetched — they have not virtually won the Premier League already based on one player — it is clear that they do rely too much on De Bruyne. And if that is apparent against a side like Wigan then it will be only too obvious against much better teams of the caliber they will face in the later stages of the Champions League.
City’s search for four trophies is already over, but unless they can work out how to win without a fit and firing De Bruyne they can already say goodbye to the idea of European glory.


‘Good, but not good enough’: Juan Antonio Pizzi on Saudi Arabia’s defeat to Uruguay

Updated 20 June 2018
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‘Good, but not good enough’: Juan Antonio Pizzi on Saudi Arabia’s defeat to Uruguay

  • A Luis Suaréz goal midway through the first half gave Uruguay a 1-0 win
  • Pizzi had spoken passionately about the need for his side to demonstrate a higher level of focus and performance

ROSTOV-ON-DON: Good, but not good enough.
That was what Juan Antonio Pizzi stated as he declared himself pleased with his team’s performance in the 1-0 defeat to Uruguay on Wednesday night.
But he lamented his side’s lack of firepower as they exited the World Cup after just two matches.
Pizzi had spoken passionately about the need for his side to demonstrate a higher level of focus and performance in Rostov-on-Don after losing their opening game 5-0 to hosts Russia in Moscow last week.
The Argentine got his wish with a display that saw the Green Falcons fight throughout and edge possession against a Uruguay side ranked 14th in the world.
A Luis Suaréz goal midway through the first half after poor goalkeeping from Mohammed Al-Owais, however, was enough to hand the Green Falcons a 12th successive World Cup defeat.
The result means that even with a win against Egypt on Monday, the Green Falcons are no longer capable of progressing to the knock-out stages from Group A.
“We had a lot of ball possession and were able to impose our style of play and distribution,” said Pizzi. “We conceded a goal from a random play and didn’t have the weapons or tools to try to equalize. We kept the ball well and weren’t really troubled defensively, but lacked that ability to score.”
Indeed, for all their possession, Saudi Arabia have managed just three shots on target in 180 minutes of football. Against Russia, they failed to muster a single effort on target and the managed just three against Uruguay, two of which came in the final minutes when they knew they had to score or face elimination. None of the three shots came from a striker.
“This is our weakness. We have good ball possession, but no effectiveness. We lack the depth and skill required to win these games,” Pizzi added. “We have that deficiency and have looked for solutions, but we haven’t quite come up with one yet. But that is one of the reasons great forward are in high demand and are the elite players in world football.”
Pizzi had made four changes ahead of the match, dropping goalkeeper Abdullah Al-Mayouf in favor of Al-Owais and introducing Ali Al-Bulayhi at the heart of the defense alongside Osama Hawsawi. Further upfield, Hattan Bahberi came in for Yahya Al-Shehri and Fahad Al-Muwallad replaced Mohammed Al-Sahlawi. The changes, particularly the inclusion of Bahberi, seemed to give the side more impetus in midfield.
“The difference between the performance in the first game and this game is enormous,” Pizzi said. “The only way to compete at this level is to play at the level we did here. And even then it was not enough even to get a draw. Undoubtedly there were other factors aside from the pressure of playing in the opening game that made a difference, but it’s true that the difference was enormous.”
Many critics had predicted a deluge of goals from the likes of Suarez and Cavani, yet both were kept at bay. Save for a couple of half-chances early on, neither came close to scoring until the 23rd minute.
A corner from Carlos Sanchez sailed into the area and when Al-Owais came for it but failed to connect with his punch, Barcelona forward Suaréz was left with the simplest of tap-ins. He was so caught off-guard, he actually looked surprised as he reeled away in celebration.
“I believe you cannot be relaxed in any match,” Suarez said when asked by a Uruguayan journalist whether he had taken it easy against the Saudis.
“We wanted to win and to progress to the knock-out stage and this game simply showed how difficult it is. That’s the World Cup for you though and we are obviously delighted with how we have performed so far to progress.”
Uruguay coach Oscar Tabarez did not share his striker’s sentiments.
“Saudi Arabia wanted to excel and give a better account of themselves after losing to Russia,” he said.
“They did that very well and we have to respect them. But what surprised me the most is how we played. We underperformed.”