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The neutral observer may have been forgiven for failing to recognise the identity of Chelsea’s fresh-faced, blond-haired right-winger in their opening weekend game with Hull City. However, by the end of the 2-0 win, they would have had no trouble realising the reason why Jose Mourinho has brought Kevin De Bruyne back into his team, nor the impact he is likely to have on it.
Demonstrating pace, power and the grace of touch that saw him control a pass from Eden Hazard before slipping a ball through the legs of James Chesters for Oscar to score the first goal, it was soon clear why Mourinho had avoided sending the Belgian out on loan once again. At the start if the summer, there was talk about De Bruyne being sent out on a temporary deal similarly to the time he spent at Werder Bremen last year.
Mourinho had other ideas, seeing enough in De Bruyne to allow the 22 year old compete for a place in a squad packed full of attacking midfielders; Juan Mata, Eden Hazard and Oscar already in place before the line was added to with Willian, Andre Schurrle and Christian Atsu.
Such is the array of attacking midfield options available to the Portuguese that he fielded no strikers in the game with Manchester United, a game that De Bruyne started after his man of the match debut performance against Hull.
It was a diligent performance on Chelsea’s right-side at Old Trafford, though he picked up a booking and was substituted just before the hour mark. Despite the slow adaptation to Premier League life, there has been enough from his first two games to indicate he will be a handy asset to Chelsea as the season progresses.
The Belgian has attempted 69 passes in his first 2 games and has failed with just 14 of them, fitting into a system that seems to be prioritising fluid possession in the final third and nimble, intricate build-up play.
With the myriad of attacking midfield talent at his disposal, Mourinho will be expecting creative forward play, something he will surely get out of De Bruyne after his potent display against Hull. His debut for Chelsea came off the back of a season in which he registered 10 assists at Bremen as he helped the Bundesliga cub avoid relegation.
From his position on the right wing, he can supply the striker with a devastating cross or use his delicate control to thread balls past the defensive line centrally, it is this versatility that will be attractive to Mourinho just as much as his burgeoning talent.
His creative skill has always been evident from his time in Belgium in which he assisted 36 goals in 3 years at Genk, though his goal-scoring ability has always been notable, chipping in with 9 Bundesliga goals last term after hitting 17 at Genk.
Despite clearly being naturally gifted at playing off the striker, it would not be a surprise if Mourinho uses De Bruyne as a central attacker at some point this season given his sturdy upper-body strength and the manager’s distinct lack of trust in Fernando Torres and Demba Ba.
The abiding memory from De Bruyne’s debut at home to Hull will be his forceful strength coming from his robust physique that allows him to burst past players with explosive pace and dynamic play. It was his direct style that saw him force an early save from Allan McGregor with a long-range strike, again showing his worth to Mourinho should the coach decide to switch styles over the course of the season.
With the copious amounts of technical attacking quality littered throughout the Chelsea squad this season, De Bruyne’s presence among them will both improve Mourinho’s side as well as a raw talent aiming to take his place in a wonderfully talented Belgian team for next year’s World Cup. There were many who thought he wasn’t ready to rival Hazard, Mata and Oscar, but Mourinho sensed otherwise, assuring De Bruyne he was part of his plans for the future.
“It is up to him now, to prove just like he has done in the past 18 months” said his agent, realising as good as his client is, he won’t be starting every game at Stamford Bridge. But in terms of proving his worth, he has got off to a great start.
Written by Adam Gray
Follow Adam on Twitter @AdamGray1250
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