Pep Guardiola: Kevin De Bruyne needed to spend some time on the Manchester City bench
Manchester City boss Pep Guardiola believes giving Kevin De Bruyne a spell on the bench has helped refresh him for the final stretch of the campaign. The Belgium playmaker was outstanding as treble-chasing City overpowered Premier League leaders Arsenal 4-1 to seize complete control of the title race on Wednesday. De Bruyne scored two goals and set up another, underlining his return to form just as their season enters its most crucial phase. Only last month City manager Guardiola openly criticised the performances of the player, who found himself among the substitutes four times in the space of nine Premier League games. Speaking ahead of Sunday's trip to Fulham, Guardiola said: "He is the same player as a month ago - same personality, same exceptional player, whether I decide he doesn't play or if he plays. "But we cannot demand every player - during a career of seven, eight, nine, 10 years - play every three days for 11 months, then rest three weeks, then come back for pre-season and go to Asia. "Sometimes sitting and not playing is good. It is not to punish. Sometimes you have to see it and realise, to refresh your mind a little bit, let him notice that his standards are so, so high. "In three days you have another game, another opportunity and you can show how happy you are playing football." The statistics suggest the rest did De Bruyne good. The issue is relative of course, as even at the time of Guardiola's criticisms, the inspirational De Bruyne had registered 17 assists in his first 34 appearances of the season. Yet such are the high standards the 31-year-old has set in the past that he clearly had another level. In his eight appearances since he has notched another seven assists and weighed in with four goals. His figures, though, are eclipsed by those of the remarkable Erling Haaland, with whom he has struck up a formidable partnership. The Norwegian took his overall goal tally for the campaign to a remarkable 49 by scoring City's fourth in Wednesday's win. He has also now struck 33 in the Premier League, just one short of the record 34 held jointly by Andy Cole and Alan Shearer. He also has eight assists in all competitions. Guardiola said: "Kevin is a master of the assist with or without Erling. Erling scores goals all the time with or without Kevin but, together, they are so dangerous."
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