Pep Guardiola declared James Ward-Prowse as the best free-kick taker in the world, but he added Kevin De Bruyne to second after his assist against Southampton.
Ward-Prowse was lauded by the Manchester City manager ahead of Saturday’s clash, which ended in a 1-1 draw as an Aymeric Laporte’s header cancelled out Kyle Walker-Peters’ opener.
Southampton captain Ward-Prowse has scored 12 times from free-kicks in his Premier League career, with only David Beckham (18) managing more in the history of the competition.
But De Bruyne staked his claim for a place on Guardiola’s list at St Mary’s when he perfectly whipped his free-kick onto Laporte’s head for City’s equaliser.
That assist led to follow-up questions to Guardiola on his Ward-Prowse comments, which he firmly stood by after the game with Ralph Hasenhuttl’s side.
When asked if De Bruyne had knocked Ward-Prowse off the top of the free-kick taking perch, Guardiola responded: “Absolutely not. He [De Bruyne] is the second one!”
The Belgium midfielder’s expert delivery was his 80th assist in the Premier League, as many as Beckham has, but the 30-year-old has achieved the feat in 68 fewer outings than the former England international.
However, how does De Bruyne match up against other top-flight set-piece specialists this term?
Ward-Prowse sits top of the direct free-kick goals chart in the Premier League, with two to his name in the 2021-22 campaign.
Trent Alexander-Arnold, Maxwel Cornet, Michael Olise, Ruben Neves, Jonjo Shelvey, Marcos Alonso, Martin Odegaard, Raphinha, Son Heung-min and Matt Ritchie are all tied for second as the other players to score from a dead-ball opportunity this season.
Liverpool’s Alexander-Arnold also excels in terms of chances created from set-plays (26), with a league-leading three assists from dead-ball situations.
Ward-Prowse (22), perhaps unsurprisingly, ranks second to Alexander-Arnold under that metric, while Raphinha, Son and Ritchie (all 16) make up the top five in the league.
De Bruyne is tied for 15th on the list for chances created from set-pieces, with 10 to his name from 17 appearances in the league this term. That is as many as Chelsea’s Mason Mount and Aston Villa’s John McGinn.
The City star has created 41 chances in total in this year’s Premier League, however, with only Bruno Fernandes (57) and Alexander-Arnold (58) able to better that tally, as the reigning champions prepare for their next league clash at home to Brentford on February 9.
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