December was a difficult month for Manchester City with the club losing two of five Premier League games and falling to a possibly irreparable deficit in their English title defence.
There were positives to be found for Pep Guardiola's side, who also topped their UEFA Champions League group and beat Oxford United 3-1 away to book a Carabao Cup semi-final spot.
Gabriel Jesus enjoyed his best month of the season thus far and collected more than half of his 11 goals for the campaign in fewer than 20 days, including a Champions League hat-trick against Dinamo Zagreb.
Kevin De Bruyne was typically prominent in all areas, averaging a little more than one direct goal involvement per game in his six December appearances.
Striker Sergio Aguero also made a welcome return to Guardiola's lineup after a month out due to injury, marking his goalscoring return in Sunday's 2-0 win over Sheffield United.
City end the 2010s sat third in the Premier League, 14 points off leaders Liverpool, but that doesn't mean the final month of the decade came to a close without its share of highlights.
Manchester City Statistical Leaders in Premier League
Goals: Raheem Sterling 11, Sergio Aguero 10, Kevin De Bruyne 7, Gabriel Jesus 6, Bernardo Silva 5, Riyad Mahrez 5
Assists: Kevin De Bruyne 12, David Silva 6, Riyad Mahrez 5, Bernardo Silva 4
Passes: Rodrigo 1,270, Fernandinho 1,210, Kyle Walker 1,126, Ilkay Gundogan 997, Kevin De Bruyne 983
Jesus Lights the Way
- 5 starts (2 subs), 6 goals, 2 assists (all competitions)
- 16 total shots
- Highest Pass Success Percentage: 92 vs. Arsenal (0-3 win)
There have been some concerns among fans as to whether Jesus can be the long-term successor to Aguero, but the Brazilian went a long way to allaying any such fears in December.
Aguero's injury meant Jesus was given increased responsibilities up front, and he began his December with a run of five goals in three games. That included a European treble against Champions League group foes Dinamo when City ran out 4-1 victors in Zagreb (U.S. viewers only):
He failed to score in the 3-0 hammering of Arsenal at the Emirates Stadium, although it was fitting Jesus collected his first of two December assists in a match where he recorded a 92 per cent passing accuracy.
The Brazil international started the month with a brace against Burnley, but his most important strike came during the dominant 3-1 home win over second-place Leicester City, via NBC Sports (U.S. only):
Midfield maestro De Bruyne put it on a plate, but Jesus was no less happy to end a home scoring drought dating back almost one year:
De Bruyne Delights
- 6 starts, 3 goals, 4 assists
- 22 total shots
- Highest Pass Success Percentage: 88.5 vs. Burnley (1-4 win)
It's become commonplace for De Bruyne to feature among City's most impressive performers, and it's amid a tough month for the club that his importance to the team was perhaps clearer than ever.
De Bruyne consistently manages to stand out even among the giants present in the City dressing room. He got on the end of a Jesus cross to open the scoring inside 90 seconds when his side won 3-0 at the Emirates Stadium on December 15, via Sky Sports (UK only):
The Belgium star was directly involved in each of City's three goals against Arsenal, scoring either side of his supreme assist to Raheem Sterling in north London:
Each of his six appearances in December came in the Premier League after De Bruyne was rested in the Champions League and League Cup, but even his wizardry couldn't prevent their slide to third.
He failed to score or assist in early December clashes against Burnley or United, racking up three goals and four assists in his last four outings.
That Arsenal performance in particular grabbed the world's attention, and Guardiola lauded his playmaker as a unique talent, via Eleven Sports:
City's slip in the Premier League title race may be too much for them to make up, but De Bruyne has continued to illustrate his quality as the club hope to end 2019-20 with a major title.