Hero De Bruyne points to City's big game mentality
Chelsea 0 Manchester City 1
It was only the seventh game of Manchester City's Premier League season, but Kevin de Bruyne knows how important winning at Chelsea on Saturday could be.
So important, in fact, that the Belgian midfielder described the 1-0 win as the first 'six-pointer' of City's season.
City's great failing last season was in games like this, away from home, against the biggest teams. After winning 2-1 at Old Trafford in early September, they went on to lose at White Hart Lane, lose at Anfield, draw at the Emirates and then lose at Stamford Bridge. As De Bruyne said, the performances in those games were not always that bad, but the results were, and that was what cost City.
So for City to start their big trips with this controlled win against the reigning champions was a statement about being a more serious, competitive side this year. This was the first six pointer of the season. "It means that we want to win the big games," De Bruyne said. "Last year I think we had big games where I think we didn't do particularly badly, but we had no points to show for it. These are the most important games. It's just three points, but to win these ones, it is six points in the end."
Of course City cannot afford to drop points in the easier games either - they already drew 1-1 at home with Everton - but De Bruyne knows that they must be more consistent than they were last season. "It can go both ways: you can win all the big games and then lose all the small ones," he said. "You need to try to be constant. Obviously in the end of the season when the gap is minimal and you win these big games, it means a lot. It's nice to get the winning feeling, and stay in the same rhythm."
For City to beat Chelsea showed that they had a new efficiency in their game, tighter at the back and more incisive at the front. It was a triumph for their summer signings, with Ederson and Kyle Walker both impressive, and also for Guardiola's tactics. After a season playing 4-3-3 and 3-5-2, Guardiola went to a 3-4-3 yesterday with a lopsided diamond midfield. He shut down Chelsea, dominating the midfield, pinning Marcos Alonso back, and once ahead City were in complete control.
"You know it's going to be very difficult to come here and win the game because tactically they're very strong, defensively and on the counter, that's the way they play," De Bruyne said. "But we had a good game-plan, and we prevented them from doing that. So I think in the end, especially in the second half, I think we deserved to win the game."
Last year City could not sustain their strong start, and neither could De Bruyne. But this year he feels fresher, sharper and stronger and hopes that it will continue. With no tournament this summer he has arrived in perfect condition.
"I said from the beginning of the season that I had a good rest, So I could prepare myself mentally and physically for a long season.
"It's not always physically, it's more mentally, because of all the travelling and playing, sometimes you're a little bit off in your head. Now I feel really fresh."