Manchester City have clinched the Premier League title following Manchester United’s defeat to Leicester. Here the PA news agency the players key to their success this season.
A transformational signing, providing both the defensive and leadership qualities City lacked at the back last season following the departure of Vincent Kompany. His reading of the game, consistency and fitness levels have been superb, but it is his impact on those around him that has been most striking. His presence has infused the rest of the team with confidence and their success has flowed from that base.
Dias’ influence has perhaps been most apparent in the performances of Stones, who has reignited his career in an outstanding campaign. After losing the trust of Pep Guardiola last season, it seemed if Stones wanted to stay at the club he would have to accept being fourth choice – or even fifth choice – centre-back. Injuries to others and rotation gave him a route back and he grabbed it, forming a solid partnership with Dias and playing with new maturity.
As City’s top goalscorer this term with 12 in the Premier League and 16 in all competitions, the German has enjoyed his most productive campaign since joining the club. The return of Fernandinho to midfield has allowed the German to play more expressively, filling some of the attacking void created by David Silva’s exit. His constant probing around the box, and the timing of his runs into it, have been particularly impressive and caught plenty of opponents unawares.
Kevin De Bruyne
The Belgium playmaker has once again been superb, although injury prevented him sustaining his usual high standards throughout the campaign. De Bruyne was in fine form as City’s title charge gathered momentum in the winter before he suffered a hamstring injury in January that kept him out for a month. When he returned it took him a little while to regain his sharpness but he was back to his best as the season headed into its critical phase. With 11 assists to his name in the Premier League, it has been another productive campaign.
After an indifferent first season at the club when it took him a while to adjust to Guardiola’s demanding methods, the Portuguese full-back has really shone. His most eye-catching contributions have come when he has stepped into central midfield to operate as an extra playmaker, something made possible by City’s near total domination of possession. While this has redefined the role of the full-back to an extent, he has also impressed in that position in a more traditional sense. Comfortable on the right or left, he has been defensively sound and an attacking force with a lethal cross.
With Silva gone, this was expected to be the season when the youngster stepped up and he has not disappointed. The 20-year-old is still not inked onto the team sheet for every game but very few players are under Guardiola, who has managed his squad judiciously. He has still played regularly and has rarely had a bad game. Now one of the most influential players in the side, he is adept at unlocking defences and has a keener eye for goal than Silva ever had.