Introducing Kevin De Bruyne, soon to be the best player in the Premier League
Remember Kevin De Bruyne? He got 2 goals and 2 assists in 19 Premier League appearances last season, and he's the best player in the Premier League, one of the best in his position in the world, and he's probably going to prove that all over again this season.
In 2014, when Chelsea let him go to Wolfsburg, everyone, including Chelsea themselves probably realised that the move was going to be a mistake. But they were building a team to win the Premier League, and that takes sacrifices. This one is definitely one they rue.
When he returned to the Premier League after two successful seasons at Wolfsburg in Germany, he was Manchester-bound. At Manchester City, if De Bruyne was central to the way the team functions, under Pep Guardiola, he became an unstoppable force.
In the four seasons he has spent at Manchester City, in 117 appearances, he's scored 23 goals and assisted 46 (69 goal contributions). Including appearances in other competitions for the club, he's scored 41 goals and assisted 66 in 174 competitions.
For some context in that regard, since he's come to the Premier League, we only need to look at David Silva's numbers, and the Spaniard has registered 21 goals and 37 assists (58 goal contributions). Both of them functioning at top level in City's midfield is almost unfair to the other teams.
With David Silva set to leave Manchester City at the end of this season, expect De Bruyne to take a more central role in the way City play.
The season gap
We saw Sterling, Bernardo Silva, and Sergio Aguero tear up the Premier League for City last season while Salah, Mane, and Firmino did the same at Liverpool. Aubameyang in his first full season at Arsenal showed what he can do in the Premier League as well. We don't even have to look at strikers, defenders in the mould of Robertson, Alexander-Arnold, Lucas Digne, and Aaron Wan-Bissaka became pivotal to the way their clubs played.
It is easy to forget in the melee of attacking output thrown at us last season, that at the very start of last season, most people hung a question mark over Manchester City's attack because De Bruyne was missing with an injury and had left an 8-goal and 16-assist hole in their attacking output.
It's a great credit to Pep Guardiola and the robust squad of Manchester City that by the fifth game of the season they already had commentators going "De Bruyne, who?"
This pre-season, De Bruyne has been central to the way Manchester City have played. They look every bit as hungry as ever, like they had lost the title last season by a point and were now chasing Liverpool.
De Bruyne himself, never a slouch in the defensive phase of the game, has been tried in the number 6, defensive midfielder position by Pep. You feel that it's part of the Catalan manager's plan against low blocks that they will inevitably face this season to play De Bruyne at the base of his midfield. He's not a match for the likes of Fernandinho or new arrival Rodri, and he won't play there regularly, but if City are going at the opposition like a pneumatic drill, trying to break down the opposition defence, De Bruyne could be the answer for them.
Having largely been forgotten last season, the stage is set for De Bruyne to take the league by storm this season. In 2017/18, his stellar role in Manchester City's title-winning, record-breaking side, was shunted aside for Mohamed Salah's 32-goal tally for the Player of the Season, instead, the Playmaker of the Season award was created for him.
This season, he may get them both.