Labelled one of Manchester City’s best signings IN HISTORY and in his finest form yet under Pep Guardiola, Ilkay Gundogan is spearheading their push to reclaim the Premier League title… and deny his old boss Jurgen Klopp another triumph
- Ilkay Gundogan is enjoying one of his finest seasons in a Manchester City shirt
- With worries on Kevin De Bruyne’s fitness, Gundogan may step in and fill the void
- Pep Guardiola said Gundogan was one of City’s most important ever signings
A footballer as intelligent as Ilkay Gundogan will only be too aware but with Kevin De Bruyne fearing a spell on the sidelines, it could mean the German is forced to do something he prefers not to and take centre stage.
The 30-year-old prides himself on laying the platform for others around him to thrive and at City, there is arguably no better place to do it when your team-mates are De Bruyne, Raheem Sterling, Phil Foden, Riyad Mahrez and Sergio Aguero. And the list could go on.
But this season, one where clubs are pushed like never before with the calendar playing catch-up to the Covid-19 lockdown in 2020, it is Gundogan who has come to the fore.
Ilkay Gundogan has stepped up in Manchester City’s push to reclaim the Premier League title
Midfielder Gundogan, 30, is having one of his most influential seasons yet in the City shirt
City boss Pep Guardiola has said Gundogan is one of the best signings in the club’s history
With seven goals in 19 games, the midfielder has already enjoyed his most goal-laden campaign in City colours and at present, is on a scoring streak that would make Aguero tip his hat with five in his last eight.
His form in 2020-21 is perhaps all the more remarkable as he contracted coronavirus at the start of the season, forcing a stuttered start to his campaign. But his absence had an impact on City, as well – they won once without him and since he has been back in the team, they’ve won 13 in 16.
His penalty against Aston Villa on Wednesday night clinched a 2-0 win for City and took them top of the Premier League table. But the three points was marred by De Bruyne going off in the 59th minute and heading straight down the tunnel for treatment.
Pep Guardiola sounded relaxed about the issue, saying ‘sometimes these things happen’ but it is clear that with the table as bunched as it is, losing De Bruyne would be a major blow for City, even if it was only a couple of weeks. Once again, he is in the middle of another outstanding season.
Gundogan might not necessarily be the immediate man in mind to replace De Bruyne but he has been playing higher up the pitch this season and has the craft to help unlock teams that, while perhaps not exactly as potent as De Bruyne, isn’t a million miles off.
The stats show that at present, Gundogan has yet to provide an assist in City colours but his snappy play helps dictate the tempo of their attack under Guardiola. He has helped create 24 chances for his team to date and typically a holding player, he relishes the harder yards of the game and winning the ball back for his team.
His manager has never needed a second invitation to praise him.
‘You cannot believe how good he is,’ Guardiola said in 2019, after a 2-0 win over Dinamo Zagreb in the Champions League. ‘He is an exceptional player who can play in different positions. I missed him a lot in my first year here, after a few months he had an ACL injury. We missed him a lot, he is an exceptional player, one of the best signings this club has done in its history.’
Gundogan could become more significant if Kevin De Bruyne has a lengthy injury absence
Gundogan with the last Premier League title that City won in the 2018-19 season
Now, the Germany international is central to City’s push to win the title once again
City signed him from Borussia Dortmund in 2016 for a fee of around £20million – he was Guardiola’s first city signing.
And Gundogan’s time at Dortmund, a five-year spell, makes him one of the few players to have played under Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp and Guardiola. But he didn’t start quickly under Klopp and needed time to adapt to his methods.
‘He is willing to learn and is very smart,’ Klopp said at the time. ‘He also brings a great attitude. Ilkay has a great passing game, is a complete player, and fits perfectly into our footballing system.’
As it stands, Klopp’s Liverpool are four points behind City but Guardiola’s side have a game in hand.
At Borussia Dortmund, Gundogan overcame a tough start to flourish under Jurgen Klopp
But today, Gundogan is trying to stop his former manager’s attempts to win the title again
For City, focusing too much on the defending champions would be an error at this stage of the season – eight points separate the top seven.
But should it be City that reclaim the Premier League title, Gundogan will inevitably have played a central role in wrestling the trophy back from his old boss.
And to do that in this season, a campaign that unites managers across the league in agreement of how tough it is, would be a major accomplishment for Gundogan – a fitting one that would match Guardiola’s claim of him being one of the most crucial signings in the club’s history.
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