De Bruyne vows Manchester City will ´keep fighting´ for Premier League title

Manchester City midfielder Kevin De Bruyne vowed the champions will “keep fighting” for the Premier League title despite the huge gap to leaders Liverpool even after crushing Arsenal.

The Belgium international scored two goals and provided an assist in City’s clinical 3-0 win at Emirates Stadium on Sunday.

City are 14 points adrift of table-topping Liverpool and four behind second-placed Leicester City, who they face next weekend.

But while manager Pep Guardiola has acknowledged a third straight City championship is “not realistic”, De Bruyne was encouraged by the response to last week’s Manchester derby defeat.

“We keep fighting,” De Bruyne told Sky Sports. “I think every time you lose a game, the only reaction you can show is to win the next one. 

“Every time we lose points, we come back with a good reaction. We know we have not been at our best this year, but there are still a lot of games to play for us.”

De Bruyne fell short in his bid for a stunning hat-trick, seeing one effort saved spectacularly by Bernd Leno, but he was content with his work.

He said of the goals: “For the first, the ball came with the bounce and I tried to keep composed, not lean backward, and keep it as low as possible, and, fortunately, it went low enough and under the bar.

“I think the second goal and the shot [that was saved] after were similar, but the goalkeeper doesn’t see the ball [for the goal] and it gives him less reaction time.

“It would have been nice to get a third, but to score two goals and win after the struggles we have had is good. It’s good to come back with a win.”

Alongside De Bruyne, teenager Phil Foden made a long-awaited first Premier League start of the season.

He acknowledged the merits of featuring in the same midfield as the two-goal star, adding: “When you have a guy like this, anything can happen. It’s a pleasure to play with him. 

“I can’t be in a better position than I am to learn from him.”

Guardiola added: “Kevin made incredible goals and assists. The first and third goals – both were fantastic.

“The reaction was always there to losing the derby. We played much better than this in the past and lost or drew, and here we win. That is football.”

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

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.

Sarri rules out regular Ronaldo, Dybala and Higuain forward line for Juventus

Juventus coach Maurizio Sarri reaped the benefits of Cristiano Ronaldo, Paulo Dybala and Gonzalo Higuain playing together – then warned it may not happen often.

The front three, who also impressed against Bayer Leverkusen in midweek when Dybala came off the bench, were finally fielded as a starting combination for the first time in Serie A.

The selection paid off, Ronaldo scoring twice in a 3-1 victory over Udinese with one of his goals being set up by Higuain. Temporarily at least, the result moved Juve back to the top of the league standings.

However, Sarri suggested it was only due to Udinese’s conservative style of play that he decided to start the three forwards together, with the frontline just one possible option for the former Napoli and Chelsea coach.

“It’s the first time that we’ve managed to really attack the game after a Champions League fixture. We played at a high level for a good 60 minutes,” Sarri told Sky Sport Italia.

“At this moment, those three are in good shape and we were facing an Udinese side that doesn’t really keep possession, they like to try long balls.

“I therefore thought this was a situation where we could afford to have them. As soon as Udinese started passing it around more, we struggled, so it is a valuable option for us, but one we cannot use all the time.

“Our forwards also worked hard to help the defence and press the opposition for the first 60 minutes. In attack, they did what I asked, which was quick exchanges and passing.

“If we are in a game where the opposition will have 50-50 possession, then it becomes more complicated. They were very organised and focused today.

“Against Leverkusen, I saw they were getting tired and struggling to keep up the intensity, so I introduced the trident for that reason. Udinese play in a different way, they are not so focused on passing.”

Ronaldo, meanwhile, believes Juventus have found a good way of incorporating all three forwards into the line-up.

“The most important thing was to win, although we could’ve had more goals,” Ronaldo told Sky Sport Italia.

“I think this is a good way of playing and it’s important we must play with confidence. It’s not about individual performances, but how we work as a collective.”

Arsenal 0-3 Manchester City: De Bruyne stages masterclass at the Emirates

Kevin De Bruyne put on a stunning show at the Emirates Stadium on Sunday evening as Manchester City thumped Arsenal 3-0.

The Belgian scored the opener after just two minutes as he powered home a stunning drive from Gabriel Jesus’s low cross. Raheem Sterling doubled the lead on 15 minutes as he tapped in from a deflected cross from the Belgian.

De Bruyne then had his name up in lights once again just before the break with a fantastic low finish from just outside of the penalty area. City did not add to their lead in the second-half but the three goals was more than enough to see them claim the win and cut the gap to Leicester City in second.

De Bruyne blasts City ahead at the Emirates

Despite the huge gap between the two in the table before the match, Arsenal could have actually enjoyed a lightning start to the match as Gabriel Martinelli forced compatriot Ederson into a smart low save.

That stop actually proved key as City edged ahead only seconds later. Another Brazilian, Jesus, cut the ball back into the penalty area and straight into the path of De Bruyne who with his first touch hammered it into the top corner with Bernd Leno left flat-footed.

Sterling nets a second

Arsenal’s promising start to the match completely evaporated from that moment on and Sterling compounded the hosts’ misery as he doubled the lead. Stealing the ball back on the edge of their own penalty area, a flowing move saw De Bruyne tear down the left flank and play a cross into the area. The ball took a slight nick towards Sterling and he then had the easy task of finishing from only a few yards out.

The match turned into a rout just before the break. More wonderful midfield play from De Bruyne saw him roll Matteo Guendouzi and send a brilliant curling shot into the bottom corner of the Arsenal net. He almost secured a stunning individual hat-trick only minutes later as a wonderful long distance shot was somehow tipped onto the post by Leno.

Arsenal did not improve much after the break and only a couple of great blocks stopped Sterling, De Bruyne and Jesus from adding to the scoreline. Substitute Riyad Mahrez also went close in the final minutes but a good save from Leno kept the scoreline down again as Arsenal fell to another heavy defeat.

Final Thoughts

Three words can sum up this match – Kevin De Bruyne. Whilst there was a vast different between the two sides anyway, the Belgian midfielder really was the driving force behind City’s thumping victory. He was on top form throughout the game, playing vast levels above everyone else on the pitch. In summary, Manchester City punished Arsenal for some dreadful defending and were very much deserving of their victory.

Match Report

Arsenal: Leno (6); Kolasinac (5) (Saka (6), 40′), Sokratis (4), Chambers (5), Maitland-Niles (6); Torreira (6) (Willock (N/A), 81′), Guendouzi (5), Ozil (4) (Smith-Rowe (6), 59′); Pepe (5), Aubameyang (5), Martinelli (6).

Manchester City: Ederson (6); Mendy (6) (Zinchenko (N/A), 85′), Otamendi (7), Fernandinho (7), Walker (6); Gundogan (6) (Mahrez (6), 70′), Rodri (7), De Bruyne (10); Foden (6) (Silva (6), 56′), Sterling (7), Jesus (6).

Goals: De Bruyne (2′), Sterling (15′), De Bruyne (40′)

Referee: Paul Tierney

Yellow Cards: Fernandinho (17′), Rodri (35′), Gundogan (61′), Mendy (62′), Sokratis (73′)

Red Cards: N/A

Arsenal 0-3 Manchester City: Peerless De Bruyne inspires emphatic victory

Kevin De Bruyne produced a masterclass as Manchester City breezed to a 3-0 win over a listless Arsenal at Emirates Stadium on Sunday 

The Belgium midfielder scored two high-quality goals and provided an assist for Raheem Sterling in a one-sided victory for City.

Defending champions City are 14 points behind leaders Liverpool and four behind second-place Leicester City.

Arsenal remain in ninth – seven points off Chelsea in fourth spot – in a defeat that will have done little to enhance interim boss Freddie Ljungberg’s prospects of landing the job on a permanent basis.

Gunners forward Gabriel Martinelli brought an early save out of City goalkeeper Ederson but Pep Guardiola’s side began the rout in the second minute.

An intelligent pass from Fernandinho released Gabriel Jesus down the left flank, and he cut the ball back for De Bruyne, who side-footed a clinical half-volley high into the net.

City strengthened their grip on the game when De Bruyne rounded off a brisk counter-attack with a low ball across the box – via a slight deflection – that Sterling steered home from close range.

De Bruyne curled in City’s third from outside the box five minutes before half-time after a smart pass from Phil Foden, on his first league start of the season.

Only a spectacular fingertip save from Arsenal goalkeeper Bernd Leno, on the stroke of half-time, denied De Bruyne a first-half hat-trick.

The second half was largely a non-event as City dominated possession and Arsenal, who managed one shot on target in the contest, chased shadows.

Boos and jeers from the home supporters at half-time and near silence at full-time at the Emirates summed up the current mood of the Arsenal fanbase while the visitors chanted De Bruyne’s name.

 

What does it mean? City rediscover swagger

Liverpool have been near flawless as the Premier League season closes in on its mid-point while City have stuttered and stumbled in their wake.

On their day, though, Guardiola’s side are still capable of some mesmerising football. Against Arsenal they regained some of their swagger as they rebuilt confidence following last weekend’s chastening Manchester derby defeat.

City are clinging onto the coattails of Liverpool, and this was a reminder to Jurgen Klopp’s side that, despite their strong position, they will need to keep glancing over their shoulder.

Masterful display from majestic De Bruyne

Afforded the freedom of the Emirates, De Bruyne produced a peerless midfield display. He showed superb technique with his right and left feet for his two goals. 

A first Premier League hat-trick was the only thing missing from an individual showing among the best from any player this season.

Ozil among AWOL Arsenal players

The list of pitiful performances by Arsenal’s players was a long one: Matteo Guendouzi, Calum Chambers and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang were all dreadful.

However, a traffic cone may have provided more impetus in attack than Mesut Ozil against City, such was his anonymity. He cut an equally unenthusiastically figure as he trudged off the pitch when substituted just before the hour, before kicking his gloves in frustration.

Key Opta Facts

– Arsenal have lost their past five Premier League meetings with Manchester City – their longest losing streak against an opponent in the top flight since losing five against Manchester United between September 1983 and August 1985.
– This was the sixth time Manchester City have beaten Arsenal in the Premier League under Pep Guardiola (P7 W6 D1 L0), as many wins as the Citizens managed against them in the competition before Guardiola’s arrival (P38 W6 D9 L23).
– Arsenal have gone six games without a win at Emirates Stadium across all competitions (D3 L3), their longest run without a home win since between December 1994 and February 1995 under George Graham (eight games).
– Arsenal managed just one shot on target against Manchester City – their joint-fewest in a Premier League game at the Emirates (also one versus Everton in 2010, Chelsea in 2015 and 2016).
– Manchester City’s Kevin De Bruyne has been directly involved in 19 goals in the Premier League in 2019 (seven goals and 12 assists), the most of any midfielder in this period.

What’s next?

Manchester City head to Oxford United in the quarter-final of the EFL Cup on Wednesday before they return to Premier League action with a key home fixture against Leicester on Saturday. Arsenal head to Goodison Park next Saturday in the day’s early kick-off.

Lille´s Sanches claims PSG wanted him in 2018

Lille midfield playmaker Renato Sanches claims he almost moved to the club’s Ligue 1 rivals Paris Saint-Germain in 2018.

The Portugal international joined Lille from Bayern Munich for a club-record €25million in August.

However, the 22-year-old revealed he would have been playing in France sooner had Bayern been prepared to sell him to PSG the previous year.

“It is true that I had a serious offer from PSG,” Sanches told Telefoot.

“But my club and my former coach Niko Kovac did not want let me go.”

 

Sanches, who signed a four-year contract with Lille, scored his first goal for the club in their 2-1 win over Montpellier in Ligue 1 last Friday.

Deschamps urges Giroud to leave Chelsea

France national team head coach Didier Deschamps has urged Olivier Giroud to leave Chelsea in January.

As quoted by Mirror, the 1998 World Cup winner expressed his concerns about the striker not getting enough playing time at Stamfrod Bridge. Giroud is currently behind Tammy Abraham, and possibly even Michy Batshuayi, in the pecking order under Frank Lampard, and he hasn’t made his dissatisfaction over the situation exactly a secret. He has been linked with a move away, with Atletico Madrid and Inter Milan reportedly interested in his services.

Deschamps said that it would ‘obviously’ be better for the 33-year-old to go somewhere else and get more game-time, but he added that it was up to the player himself to decide if he wants to look for a solution or not. The situation hasn’t changed in two months, and it seems that if Giroud, the 2018 World Cup winner, wants to represent his country at Euro 2020, he will have to make sure he has some playing continuity in the period leading up to the tournament.

Rooney: I´m still Premier League quality

Wayne Rooney claims he is still good enough to play in the Premier League as the former England striker prepares to take up a player-coach role with Derby County. 

Rooney scored 208 goals in the English top flight during two spells with boyhood club Everton either side of his time at Manchester United, where he became the club’s top scorer.

He joins a Rams side siting 16th in the second tier, but Rooney believes he can still cut in the top division.

“I still felt I could do it when I was at Everton, but other people made their decisions on that,” said the 34-year-old, who watched Derby lose 1-0 to Millwall at Pride Park on Saturday

“Now my ambition is to get Derby back in the Premier League and hopefully play my part there for them.

“Ryan Giggs was able to play into his late thirties in the Premier League and Gareth Barry says he wants to do it at 40.

“Given the right team around me, then I could still play in the Premier League.”

Rooney plans to go into management in the future, but believes he still has a lot to offer on the pitch if teams play to his strengths.

“It’s important to understand football. It is not all about running round, it is about using your head to play the game,” he explained.

“Sometimes that gets lost, because you don’t score as many goals or whatever.

“The two teams I played for in the Premier League were Manchester United and Everton. I am at Derby now, and hopefully we can get there with them.”

Szczesny out of Juventus-Udinese match with shoulder problem

Juventus goalkeeper Wojciech Szczesny will miss the Serie A clash with Udinese after feeling discomfort in his right shoulder ahead of Sunday’s game.

In a statement on social media, Juve said Szczesny reported the problem on the morning of the match and will be rested as a precaution.

Gianluigi Buffon looks set to start in goal at Allianz Stadium after completing 90 minutes in the midweek Champions League win over Bayer Leverkusen.

The 41-year-old kept a clean sheet in Germany but made a glaring error in his last Serie A appearance, the 2-2 draw against Sassuolo on December 1.

Mattia Perin has been added to the matchday squad as Maurizio Sarri’s men aim to overtake leaders Inter, who visit Fiorentina later on Sunday.

Galliani confirms audacious Monza offer for free agent Ibrahimovic

Zlatan Ibrahimovic has been offered the chance to join ex-Milan associates Silvio Berlusconi and Adriano Galliani at third-tier Monza on a two-and-a-half-year deal.

Galliani, the Rossoneri’s former chief executive, said he had spoken with the Swede in an audacious attempt to lure him to the Serie C side.

Confirmation of the contract offer comes after former Milan owner Berlusconi, who purchased Monza in 2018, publicly outlined his desire to reunite with Ibrahimovic.

The 38-year-old has been a free agent since leaving LA Galaxy after two seasons in MLS.

“After Berlusconi gave me a mandate, I made the offer to [Ibrahimovic’s agent] Mino Raiola,” Galliani, now CEO at Monza, told Corriere della Sera.

“He suggested I talk about it directly with Zlatan, who I speak with every night.”

Galliani explained his pitch: “Come to us, stay six months in Serie C. Then next year we go up to Serie B and in two seasons we are in Serie A.”

Monza are on track to win promotion this term, but signing Ibrahimovic would still represent a major surprise.

The former Barcelona, Paris Saint-Germain and Manchester United star has been heavily linked with either a return to Milan or a move to Napoli.

Rumoured suitors Bologna have ruled themselves out of the race, with director Walter Sabatini telling Tuttomercatoweb: “Ibrahimovic will not be coming to Bologna. He has made other choices.”