No De Bruyne, no problem? (Part 1)

Sandipani Basu
4 min readJan 27, 2021

Kevin De Bruyne, Manchest….. Premier League’s best midfielder went off injured in Manchester City’s last league game against Aston Villa. They won the game but suffered a huge loss at the same time.

City’s next month sees them lock horns with Tottenham at Etihad, Liverpool and Arsenal away. They have the Manchester derby on the 6th of March and a Champions League Round of 16 just before against Monchengladbach on February 25th.

In De Bruyne’s absence, many are tipping Bernardo Silva to be a good replacement for him. But Bernardo has not been able to replicate his form since City’s title win. Here’s a look at his performance chart over the years at Manchester City.

It includes overall touches, touches in the middle third and attacking third. And dribbles success % and passes completed percentage.

Bernardo Silva at City (per 90 stats)

One thing we can learn for sure from the above image is Bernardo is dribbling more successfully this season. Otherwise his stats are pretty much constant and overlap at times. Now let’s see a comparison of Phil Foden, Kevin De Bruyne and Bernardo Silva this season(2020–21) based on the above statistical attributes.

Season 2020–2021(per 90)

So Silva doesn’t do bad here either and is at par with his midfield counterparts. However, on looking closely you might notice, Bernardo has a comparatively lower number of touches in the attacking third(see bottom right). So that superficially means he is lesser involved in the final third of the opposition half.

On digging deeper and plotting a similar polar radial chart on numbers which tell a pretty good story we can understand the real difference between these three.

Below GCA90 stands for goal creating actions per 90 — it includes the two actions such as dribbles, passes and/or drawing fouls. npxG is non-penalty xG. Rest is self-explanatory

In-depth player stats 2020–2021(per 90)

Kevin De Bruyne clearly stands out here and proves why he is an indispensable member of Pep’s army. But what is worrying is Bernardo Silva’s performance in creating chances be it splitting defenses with key passes or simply putting the ball in for anyone in the penalty area.

What City need the most is goals. Because they have scored just 31 goals this season (EDIT— this was before the West Brom game :P, but that is exactly what I am talking about). They aren’t in a bad shape defensively. If you look at their losses, one against Leicester, where they conceded three penalties and other to Mourinho’s Tottenham, in a match where Harry Kane (England’s star striker) had an xG of 0.0 (get the drifting BUS :P ). Clearly, the absence of Aguero and a really poor Gabriel Jesus puts them in a bad shape up front. And now with Bernardo’s poor run-in form and De Bruyne’s injury, things might seem bleak for them.

Bernardo hasn’t always been like this though, there has been a dip in form after the restart. Here’s him across seasons.

Bernardo Silva across seasons(per 90)

Phil Foden is a good alternative both centrally and on the left wing. Pep has started him 8 out of the 14 games he has played. Still young with a lot to prove, he can make a major contribution to City’s title challenge this season. Here’s how

Foden vs De Bruyne this season(per 90)

He is lagging behind in numbers but is also 9 years younger. So Foden replacing De Bruyne in the future, very likely.

In the next part I will analyze Ilkay Gundogan and Riyad Mahrez.

EDIT — I was actually going to analyse only Mahrez in my second part and was going to talk about Bernardo Silva playing as a False 9, but Pep made a bold move yesterday playing Gundogan high up(although it was against West Brom). Gundogan back in his Dortmund days was touted as a strong DM but a stronger AMF, so I might analyze Ilkay too.

Data credits —

Link to part 2 —



Sandipani Basu

An aspiring data geek with a keen interest in sports analytics, primarily soccer. I am on a gradual learning curve. But as they say good things take time.