Playmakers come in all sorts of shapes and sizes.
In another weekend of football across Europe, we saw firsthand why they are special – as Chelsea, Manchester City and Bayer Leverkusen picked up big wins.
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Enjoy De Bruyne: Manchester City 4-0 Southampton
For years there was a famous banner reading ‘Enjoy Laudrup’ hanging on the Camp Nou terraces. Michael’s equivalent in today’s game is undoubtedly Kevin De Bruyne. It’s well past due that similar signage be displayed at the Ethiad, especially as the Belgian creative artist is racing towards Premier League immortality.
— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) October 8, 2022
Today’s latest assist — as Pep Guardiola’s men ran out 5-0 winners over Southampton — was the 95th he’s produced in England’s top division, which pulls him one ahead of Dennis Bergkamp, another who shares many similarities with Manchester City’s No.17. As things now stand, only four players have created more goals than him in competition history: Frank Lampard (102), Wayne Rooney (103), Cesc Fabregas (111) and Ryan Giggs (162).
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Better late than never: Chelsea 3-0 Wolves
If things had worked out differently, De Bruyne would be plying his trade at Stamford Bridge, but then manager Jose Mourinho felt he didn’t need him and to be fair it’s not as if Chelsea has been hurting for silverware since. There is no one in Graham Potter’s squad who can do what De Bruyne does, but in some ways this allows the Blues to play a different system, namely 3-4-2-1. Behind the number nine is homegrown star Mason Mount, who until this afternoon had been an ineffective presence this season.
Mason Mount's game by numbers vs. Wolves:
5 chances created
5 touches in opp. box
5 passes into opp. box
4 passes into final ⅓
4 x possession won
His first assists of the season. ✌️ pic.twitter.com/awBEsLnL0u
— Squawka (@Squawka) October 8, 2022
That changed when Wolves visited. Mount not only created for Kai Havertz, playing in the false nine role, but his fellow deep-lying forward Christian Pulisic, another much-maligned player this season. It was Mount’s first assist for the campaign, doubling his 2022/23 tally in the second half. He finished 2021/22 with ten.
“It has been noticeable [that] Chelsea have been doing a lot of these tight passes,” said Pat Nevin on BBC punditry duty. “It was an eye of the needle pass, again from Mason Mount. He had a lot to do.”
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With flying colours: Bayer Leverkusen 4-0 Schalke
While the Premier League champions were being their relentless selves, a former Guardiola student was acing his first day as a head coach. Even back in his playing days, many observers felt Xabi Alonso was a manager-in-waiting.
After coaching Real Madrid’s youth team, Alonso returned to his boyhood club Real Sociedad as their reserve-team manager. His performances earned him an opportunity with Bundesliga outfit Bayer Leverkusen — succeeding Gerardo Seoane — and the Spaniard couldn’t have asked for a better debut.
✨ 𝑋𝑎𝑏𝑖 𝐸𝑓𝑓𝑒𝑐𝑡 ✨
— Bayer 04 Leverkusen (@bayer04_en) October 8, 2022
Fellow strugglers Schalke 04 were the visitors to the BayArena and by setting his team up in a 3-4-3 shape the hosts ran out 4-0 winners. A historic feat as, according to Opta, this was the biggest-ever win by a coach in their first Bundesliga game in charge. Among the goalscorers was full-back Jeremie Frimpong, who grabbed a brace. Some are tipping Frimpong as having an outside chance of making the Netherlands squad at the forthcoming World Cup finals.
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One playmaker who could miss the Qatari showpiece event is Dimitri Payet, who last played for France in late 2018. That said, he remains valuable for Marseille, with him netting in their meeting with Ajaccio this afternoon. It was a landmark goal as Payet moved onto 100 goals in Ligue 1 subsequently becoming the first active player to reach this figure plus 100 assists.
Premier League 2022/23 table
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West Ham United